LANSING - A Berrien Springs podiatrist who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from an elderly patient has had her license suspended following a felony embezzlement conviction.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) announced Wednesday it has suspended the license of Regina Lynne Spears, D.P.M., also known as Regina Lynne Spears-Everett.

She was convicted July 11 on one count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult, $20,000 or more. She was sentenced Sept. 9 to serve nine months in jail and five years probation, and was ordered to pay fines, costs and restitution totaling $169,572.

Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Kanaby prosecuted the case in 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Kalamazoo County. He said the crime occurred in Portage, where Spears-Everett, 47, also had an office.

Kanaby said Spears-Everett stole money from a former patient, Toni Verdries, 97, by befriending her, changing her will and giving herself power of attorney. She stole the money over time between January 2010 to January 2011, Kanaby said.

"She befriended her and took advantage of that," he said.

He said that within four days of changing Verdries' will, Spears-Everett petitioned the court to have her committed to a mental health facility, where she was diagnosed with cancer and died Jan. 27, 2011, before the criminal case went to trial. Kanaby said that besides changing Verdries' will so that money intended for charity would go to her, Spears-Everett stole money from her account while she was hospitalized.

The theft was discovered by a lawyer who had drawn up the original will, Kanaby said.

"Someone informed him about the victim being in the facility, he went there to see her, met Spears-Everett and began to question her," Kanaby said.

He said the lawyer's suspicions were reported to an agency that investigates abuse of vulnerable adults, and ultimately police were called and Spears-Everett was charged.

Kanaby said the restitution is to be paid to Verdries' estate.

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