Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grannys Savings : Stolen Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Strubel on the Case

By: Carl Hessler, Jr.Published: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In “a despicable violation of trust,” a Lower Pottsgrove woman stole her 91-year-old grandmother’s life savings and used it to pay for her college tuition and vacations, prosecutors alleged.

Joelle Paige Speidel, 29, of the 2400 block of Sanatoga Road, was arraigned Tuesday before District Judge Maurice Saylor of Gilbertsville on charges of theft of movable property, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, unlawful use of a computer, computer theft, computer trespass and identity theft in connection with alleged incidents that occurred between October 2007 and March 2009.

“This is just a despicable violation of trust. I can only surmise that the defendant was greedy and either expected or hoped that her 91-year-old grandmother wouldn’t survive long enough for anybody to know that she was stealing,” alleged Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

“This was her grandmother’s nest egg. This was the money that was supposed to be available to keep her living comfortably in her old age in a retirement community. Instead, her granddaughter just walked off with all of it,” Ferman said.

Speidel, according to a criminal complaint, stole a total of $169,404. Speidel, formally of Lexington Avenue in Perkiomen, used the money to pay for tuition at St. Joseph’s University, to make car payments and for vacations, according to the arrest affidavit filed by New Hanover Police Corporal William Moyer and county Detective Katharine Hart.

Speidel, who was jailed in lieu of $100,000 cash bail to await a preliminary hearing, faces a possible maximum sentence of 31 ½- to-63-years in prison if she’s convicted of all the charges at trial.

An investigation of Speidel began in July when the grandmother’s son, who is Speidel’s uncle, contacted police about missing funds from his mother’s account. The Fidelity Brokerage Services account had been opened online in February 2007, according to court papers.

Speidel’s uncle, who lives in New Hanover, and her grandmother, who lives at the Dock Woods Retirement Community in Towamencin, had asked Speidel to assist them in managing the account because she had some educational background in finance, according to prosecutors.

“(The grandmother) assured that enough money was available to maintain her in her old age so she wouldn’t be a burden on anyone,” said Ferman. “That’s really what makes this so tragic, that she was looking to do something responsible, not to be a burden on anyone, and someone could so callously undermine her intentions and wishes and steal from her.”

The account was to be used to pay the monthly housing costs associated with the grandmother’s living arrangements at the Dock Woods community.

“Once she was entrusted with that position and established the accounts she systematically began to empty the accounts to pay for her own personal living expenses, everything from car payments to tuition to things that she just wanted to buy,” Ferman alleged. “She cleaned out her grandmother’s entire life’s savings.”

Speidel, authorities alleged, created a username and password online that enabled her to transfer funds electronically from her grandmother’s account to her own personal bank account in addition to electronic check payments for her personal expenses.

The unauthorized withdrawals ranged between $280 and $27,471, according to court papers.

“It was a very simple scheme. Every month, without fail, she would make withdrawals and take money out to pay her personal bills and expenses,” Ferman alleged.

While the grandmother’s life savings is gone, she remains living at the Dock Woods community, officials said.

“They’ve really been incredible in supporting this family at a time when other facilities would probably have just kicked her out,” said Ferman, referring to Dock Woods officials.

When police confronted Speidel about the missing funds she took sole responsibility for the theft, court papers indicate.

Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Strubel is prosecuting the case for the district attorney’s Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit
This is a very encouraging Trend, walking off with older people's money, is a serious crime and should be treated as such. I am sorry that in my family, a family member in combination with a stranger walked off with my 92 year old mother's CD's,Bonds,Stocks,Savings, and received family immunity, Key West,Florida does not have a Elder Abuse Protection Unit and I was told by FDLA that because there was a family member involved in the heist that the DA would not touch it.

When people actually going to jail for this stuff will send a strong message towards would elder financial abusers, family or not ! Congratulations to Rebecca Strubel for investigating the case.....

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