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Friday, February 8, 2008

Health aides allegedly stole $122G from client

Bank officials suspicious when stroke victim opens gym membership
By James Tinley, Register Staff
MILFORD — Two home health aides hired to care for a stroke victim allegedly spent about $122,000 of his money on cell phones, casino trips and hundreds of other purchases, police said.

Officials from the man’s bank became suspicious when they spotted a transaction that didn’t make sense, considering the man’s health condition: a gym membership.

On Thursday, police arrested Julia M. Black, 59, of 230 Day St., New Haven, and Pamela M. Johnson, 45. Police listed Johnson’s address as 131 West Rock Ave., West Haven, but that street does not exist there.

Police said Johnson made the bulk of the purchases and charged her with first-degree larceny, third-degree larceny, ATM fraud and criminal liability for acts of another.

Police said Black had a T-Mobile cell phone account set up in her name that was automatically paid through her client’s bank account, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. She was charged with third-degree larceny and criminal liability for acts of another.

The man suffered a debilitating stroke in 2005 and hired Johnson — who had previously provided part-time aid to him — and four others to provide around-the-clock assistance. He told police that he kept his debit card locked in the trunk of his car and allowed Johnson to use it only to buy groceries, medication, gas and for other personal expenses, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Wachovia, the man’s bank, became suspicious when mysterious charges began appearing on the account between 2006 and 2007. The charges included a T-Mobile cellular phone account with two phones on it that totaled $2,760. When police called the numbers, Black answered one and Johnson answered the other, according to the affidavit.

There were also 59 other allegedly unauthorized purchases in Milford totaling $18,631 and 193 ATM withdrawals totaling $11,000, according to the warrants.

Johnson is also suspected of making purchases outside Milford that total more than $90,000, said Officer Vaughan Dumas, police spokesman.

Johnson brought the alleged victim to a meeting with bank officials and broke down and admitted to making some of the purchases, according to the affidavit.

The bank contacted police and they launched a nearly yearlong investigation.