Brighton women charged with scamming $450,000, condo from elderly neighbor with dementia

Randi Berkowitz, 58, and Patricia DiGiacomo, 63, were arraigned today on a 63-count indictment charging they used their neighbor's cat to gain entry to her life and her finances - which they then allegedly plundered - the Suffolk County District Attorney's office says.

The two ingratiated themselves with the victim, a Strathmore Road neighbor who lived next door to them on Strathmore Road, by caring for her 7-year-old tabby, "Puddy Cat." The victim had no close family and the cat was "the most important thing in her life," according to prosecutors:

Beginning in late 2012, [Assistant DA Michele] Granda said, Berkowitz and DiGiacomo convinced the victim to name Berkowitz as her power of attorney and administrator of her will, granting her authority to make financial and other decisions in her name. Complicating matters, however, was the fact that Berkowitz was posing as DiGiacomo, and even had a bogus Massachusetts driver's license bearing Berkowitz' photo and DiGiacomo's name and biographical information.

"The elder doesn't know anyone named Randi Berkowitz," Granda said. "She knows Randi Berkowitz as Pat DiGiacomo and knows Patricia DiGiacomo as Pat's friend, Devon."

The defendants had "unrestricted access" to the victim's finances, Granda said, and even got the victim to sign blank checks that they used for their own purchases "wholly unrelated" to the victim or Puddy Cat. Within 12 months of appointing Berkowitz as her power of attorney, the victim's bank account was siphoned of some $175,000.

The defendants allegedly used the victim's money to buy a 2010 Mini Cooper, an iPad, exercise equipment, meals, specialty kitchen supplies, and other items for themselves. They also used the money to retain attorneys to defend them in earlier criminal cases charging them with fraudulently obtaining prescription painkillers - a scheme in which Berkowitz saw multiple doctors under her own identity and that of DiGiacomo to obtain large quantities of OxyContin and Percocet - and Registry of Motor Vehicles fraud for using the falsified driver's license to achieve that end. They opened six credit card accounts in the victim's name.

Most disturbing, prosecutors said, was an aspect of the scheme in which the defendants allegedly got the victim to transfer ownership of her condominium to Berkowitz. ...

Berkowitz allegedly went to Suffolk Superior Court to file a lawsuit claiming ownership of the condominium. She allegedly represented herself to the judge as "Patricia DiGiacomo" and filed false statements in paperwork signed under the pains and penalties of perjury. As the criminal investigation closed in on them, meanwhile, the two began liquidating all the assets they had stolen from the victim and deposited in their own accounts. When State Police assigned to the Suffolk DA's office executed a search warrant on their apartment, detectives recovered $64,000 in currency, uncashed money orders, and bank checks. State Police also froze their bank accounts and the Mini Cooper they allegedly bought with the victim's savings.

Innocent, etc.

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    Comments

    Long, long, overdue

    This type of crime runs rampant with hardly any interest by authorities to stop it. My aunt and others were victims of such people and all the state AG and elder services are set up to do is look for physical abuse of elders. Given how bad the state is with money, they must not have anyone to spot financial fraud. If anyone from the Middlesex DA's office cares, I have access to the medical and financial records for my aunt's case.

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    Yeah, I'm sure the DA's

    Yeah, I'm sure the DA's office spends a lot of time searching website comments to find new crimes to investigate. Why don't you call them up?

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    Made lots of calls

    and spoke to sympathetic listeners who had no course of action. DA's just want high conviction rates, hence cases with DNA and other physical evidence eaten up by juries are where they focus, not on cases where juries wouldn't easily understand financial evidence. Imagine how hard it is to get 12 jurors to all agree on sending somebody away to prison when its so hard to get 12 people to just agree on where to go for lunch.

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    Apparently the Suffolk County

    Apparently the Suffolk County DA's office has no problem trying this kind of case. I would think that most juries would be sympathetic towards this sort of victim. A lesser man might ask -- hypothetically -- whether your aunt had done anything to bring it on herself (you know, like not wearing bright colored clothing or something).

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    Possibly

    She never learned to drive, had no license on file, and thus no driving history to judge her on.

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    Call the police first.

    Every police department deals with these issues, and every month i see some sort of large scale gypsy scam that targets the elderly.

    The most common type of elderly fraud however are the Jamacian phone scammers. These guys have it down to a science and probably take hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the elderly.

    If the money is already gone and you kniw the suspect, id call a lawyer as well.

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    Two classes of criminals

    The financial scammers play a numbers game - they try to scam a large number of people with minimal time investment doing it. The two arrested and those preying on my aunt are in it for the long term, gain trust, tell lies to build distrust of friends and relatives (like "they want to put you in a nursing home") in order to isolate their victim and make them dependant on the thieves. They get durable power of attorney and health care proxy documents signed, and perhaps a new will. My aunt was in too poor health by the time she would agree to change her will, but their previous victim substituted the thieves for a relative they claimed was stealing from her.

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    Sounds like you need an attorney.

    There are many cases of elderly people who leave family out of their will for various reasons, sometime opting to give their estate to friends or others who take care of them (this makes it a civil issue).

    The case mentioned in this article involves bogus and fraudulent act by two people who used money from an estate for personal reasons, and in the process perjured themselves and committed various other felonies.

    I'd start with an attorney Markk, as you need someone with experience to prove that someone else is legally stealing that money. The attorney can then go to the police. You could also try a P.I. first if that is cheaper.

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    What kind of lawyer?

    Criminal lawyers work for defendants. My Aunt's probate case is ending soon, 3 1/2 years after her death with plenty of money spent on a respected probate litigator. With the estate, all the court wants is the case to get settled, same for the court appointed administrator. That same administrator is the one with authority to request financial and medical files (other than a judge via subpoena), but their job is to not waste much money on such things, instead preserving the value of the estate. The thing is that my aunt and another woman didn't suffer as much loss as their first victim who had Alzheimer's, significant retirement income, and decent investment portfolio. They dragged this poor woman around with them, she couldn't talk, and her expressions of anger towards them were explained away as the disease. I tracked down her relatives on the Internet to talk to them, and sure enough, they too were pushed out of this woman's life by the thieves. Its a really long, sordid story and exhausting process. Like most long legal battles, only the lawyers come out winning and a long vacation trip around the world would have been a much more satisfying and pleasant use of the time and money.

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    An estate attorney.

    It's either criminal or not, and the estate attorney would tell you whether to get the authorities involved, and that would only help your case.

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    I'm pretty sure this happened in my building

    By on

    I'm almost positive that the woman who was taken advantage of was my neighbor. This is sickening. She was such a nice lady and we bonded over our cats when I first moved into the building. The fact that there are people out there who would do something like this really bums me out.

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    Someone tried this on my

    By on

    Someone tried this on my grandma until my mom caught on and was at grandmas when the scammer called to say he was gonna come over to have her "sign those important documents". Caller hung up when mom asked "oh yea, and what documents are those"? Pathetic cons

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