Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Estate Theft Charged by PA AG in Scranton

On October 17, 2007, The Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA), reported, in an article entitled "Activist’s wife charged with stealing from dad’s estate", by Stacy Brown, that a woman "faces up to seven years in prison after her arrest Tuesday on a charge of stealing money from her deceased father’s estate."

Joanne Pilchesky, 54, * * * was indicted by a state grand jury for illegally taking more than $152,700 from her late father’s bank accounts.

She was arraigned on a charge of theft, a third-degree felony, by District Justice James P. Kennedy and released on her own recognizance. * * *
The case is somewhat unusual in that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office brought the criminal indictment, not a local district attorney's office.
According to a 15-page indictment and arrest warrant, on April 25, 2006, Lackawanna County District Attorney Andrew Jarbola requested the office of the state’s attorney general assume jurisdiction over allegations of financial irregularities with the estate of Raymond Conrad, Mrs. Pilchesky’s late father.

The request was made due to a lack of resources, a perceived conflict of interest, and the fact that the events involved in the investigation spanned several counties, including Erie and Lackawanna, according to court records. * * *
This case is not mentioned on the PA AG's website.

The "conflict of interest" was not specified in the article. A "conflict" may have derived from other events in Lackawanna County noted by that newspaper, and that same reporter, in an article relating to the defendant's husband entitled "Latest Pilchesky suit is over the top" (04/15/07).

The recent article about the alleged theft of a daughter from a parent's estate recited alleged elements of family estrangement, an elder's health changes, his execution of a new power of attorney in favor of the daughter, and transfers by the daughter, as agent, near or after the principal's death.

Mrs. Pilchesky was one of five estranged children of Mr. Conrad, according to the presentment, and had little contact with her father until he suffered an aneurysm in 2002 or 2003.

During his recuperation from surgery, Mrs. Pilchesky began to visit regularly, the presentment states. Within a year, she convinced Mr. Conrad to sign a document she had drafted giving her power of attorney over the estate, the filing charged.

But Mr. Conrad had already given power of attorney to his niece, Charlene Snyder.

The power of attorney gave Mrs. Pilchesky authority to access Mr. Conrad’s three bank accounts, but all transactions were supposed to be for Mr. Conrad’s care, investigators said.

Mr. Conrad died Sept. 21, 2005 in a nursing home in Erie. Mrs. Pilchesky was present at the time of his death but failed to notify his banks, investigators allege.

At the time of his death, Mr. Conrad had $155,776.51 in three accounts, the presentment charges. Investigators allege that from Sept. 20 to Oct. 27, 2005, she nearly drained the accounts, writing checks to herself in the names of Joanne Ricci — her maiden name — and Joanne Pilchesky. * * *
The legal termination of the power of attorney document due to the principal's death, and the need for probate of a decedent's estate thereafter, were highlighted in the article:
Authorities, who said Mrs. Pilchesky was legally entitled to about $98,500 under terms of her father’s will, claim she had no legal authority to take any of the money and the estate should have gone through probate and been distributed.

Her power of attorney, they charge, expired upon Mr. Conrad’s death.
The article concluded by noting, "The Pilcheskys declined comment when contacted by The Times-Tribune."