Nationally known family of thieves preys on Central New York elderly

Monday September 29th 2014

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Chanel Lakatosz’s obituary says almost nothing of her 26-year life.

There’s no mention of her belonging to a family that preys on the elderly through daytime burglaries in places such as Atlantic City, Chicago, Philadelphia and other communities east of the Mississippi river. Or of her death in a Syracuse jail where she was held on a $3.75 million bond. There’s no mention of her being banned from Best Buy stores in Ohio. No one has left condolences on the funeral home’s website.

The brief account does capture her nomadic lifestyle. Born in Brooklyn, she lived her last eight years in a Chicago suburb and her funeral was at a Polish-speaking Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey.  In New York and Illinois, she shared at least three addresses with Witold “Victor” Lakatosz, who is not the father listed in her obituary, but a man who for decades has called himself the “King of Gypsies.”

Witold Lakatosz is the leader of a band of travelers with Polish roots who are currently based in Chicago. The King, who is in his late 60s, is famous for showing up in towns and cities where Lakatoszs have been arrested. In August, four Lakatosz family members, including Chanel Lakatosz, were arrested in Syracuse on charges of taking half a million dollars in valuables from 15 homes in four Onondaga County towns.

While he has not surfaced publicly in the latest case, the King often visits communities where his family has been arrested. Driving nice cars and wearing lots of jewelry, he has handed out business cards claiming he is a United Nations representative of the Roma people, commonly referred to as “Gypsies.” “He’s essentially the bailsman. He shows up and tries to buy off the cops, buy off the prosecutor,” said Dennis Marlock, a former detective lieutenant of the Milwaukee Police Department.

News stories show that Witold Lakatosz has appeared to offer restitution in dozens of cases from Florida to Connecticut since at least the 1970s. The defendants routinely skip court appearances after their bail is paid. Read more »

Superior Court Affirms Ruling Against Knox Man Found Guilty of Stealing $250k from 88 year old Aunt

Wednesday September 24th 2014

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed the Nov. 6, 2012, conviction of a Knox man for the theft of over $250,000.00 from his 88-year old aunt.

David Lynn Patton, of Knox, was found guilty in Clarion Court of Common Pleas on a total of 95 counts of Theft by Unlawful Taking and Failure to Make Required Disposition in connection with the theft of over $250,000.00 from Betty Wetzel between January 2007 and May 2012.

Patton was sentenced to an aggregate term of 30 to 60 months. He was out on bail for his appeal.

The ruling on the appeal was filed on September 19. Click here for the complete ruling.

Judges Gantman, Elliot, and Olson rejected the appeal and stated that the Power of Attorney between Patton and Wetzel was not a license to steal.

“Simply stated, we reject Appellant’s bold claim that the “unlimited gift” provision in the power of attorney provided Appellant with a license to steal Ms. Wetzel’s assets and use all of her money for Appellant’s own benefit. To the contrary, the gifting power was clearly subject to the condition that Appellant use the power ‘for benefit’ – and Appellant clearly violated this condition when he took all of Ms. Wetzel’s money and used it as if it was his own,” stated the Court. Read more »

Owner of Costa Rican Call Center Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Elderly Through Sweepstakes Scam

Monday September 22nd 2014

A dual United States-Costa Rican citizen pleaded guilty today for his role in a $1.88 million sweepstakes fraud scheme that defrauded hundreds of elderly Americans.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins of the Western District of North Carolina made the announcement.

Geoffrey Alexander Ramer, 34, of Costa Rica, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer of the Western District of North Carolina to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the telemarketing fraud scheme. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

“Ramer preyed upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society, callously and repeatedly defrauding elderly Americans by stealing their life savings,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “We hope that today’s guilty plea brings some solace to his victims. This prosecution sends a clear message to the next would-be con-artist: in protecting our citizens, the reach of the Justice Department will not stop at our country’s borders. Read more »

Court Decision Sets Precedent & Raises Awareness of Elder Abuse

Monday September 15th 2014

A NYC Housing Court judge recently  found in favor of an older adult who was being abused by, and lived in fear of his immediate family members (Housing Court Huggins v. Randolph). Kings County Judge, Susan F. Avery, JHC based a significant portion of her findings on the rights of older adults to live with respect and dignity, and pointed to the hidden nature of elder abuse, emphasizing that the protection of older adults from abuse and exploitation is a matter of significant public concern.1

This court finding represents a groundbreaking development for the elder justice movement both because of Judge Avery’s attention to the severity of elder abuse and because the case sets a legal precedent that paves the way for older adults who are abused in their living situations to find recourse through the justice system. Read more »

U.S. Department of Justice Launches the Elder Justice Website

Friday September 12th 2014

The site offers resources for victims, family members, prosecutors, researchers, and anyone who works with older adults.

Victims and family members will find information about how to report elder abuse and financial exploitation in all 50 states and the territories.
Federal, State, and local prosecutors will find three different databases containing sample pleadings and statutes.
Researchers in the elder abuse field may access a database containing bibliographic information for thousands of articles and reviews.
Practitioners — including professionals of all types who work with elder abuse and its consequences — will find information about resources available to help them prevent elder abuse and assist those who have already been abused, neglected or exploited.

This press release was issued by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) – a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Click here to sign up to receive direct email updates from ACL.


Guilty Plea in Elder Abuse Case

Monday September 8th 2014

NEWPORT TOWNSHIP — A woman was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty Wednesday morning to neglect of a care dependent person.

Investigators said Tonya Harlos of Mocanaqua got into a fight with an elderly patient in 2013.  (Click here to read the original news article)

The patient at Guardian Elder Care near Nanticoke said Harlos hurt her arms, smothered her with a pillow, and stole her doll.  Harlos told police she put her hands on the patient’s wrists to prevent the woman from hitting her.

This story was written by Bill Michlowski and reported on WNEP

Protect and Defend – Fraud Targeting Seniors

Friday September 5th 2014

Fraud against seniors hits all walks of life and is in every community. Known losses, just through financial exploitation of seniors in the US, have reached $2.6 billion each year. This is estimated to be the tip of the iceberg (just 2% of cases reported) making a realistic estimate top out at $125 billion annually, demonstrating the no-holds-barred approach of scammers that target elders.

The perpetrators are not just the usual fraudsters. Most often (65%) they are family members and trusted professionals.Their greed leads to the demise of a lifetime of careful financial planning, established care plans and stable housing situations and is having devastating effects in our communities. Family members often rationalize the assets are their inheritance, but it is a crime and not just a family issue.

Excerpted from the August 2014 Fraud Avengers Newsletter which is focused on Fraud Against Seniors.  Click here to read the entire newsletter and sign up for future issues. was created by fraud prevention professionals to add “fraud prevention” to the public’s understanding of “financial literacy”; to empower individuals to protect themselves and the ones they care about from financial abuse; and to impede criminals who seek to benefit from payments fraud.

Financial Elder Abuse Near You

Friday September 5th 2014

Elder financial abuse is being called the fastest growing area of crime in America. And it may be happening in your family, if you aren’t paying attention to a caregiver — or a relative — who, under the guise of being helpful, is syphoning off an elderly person’s life savings.

According to a study by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 60 percent of the adult protective services (APS) cases of financial abuse nationwide involved an adult child of the elderly person. Much of this theft is committed by their own family members under the guise of “helping them” — or simply rationalizing that the money would be theirs someday, so why not now.

Women are twice as likely to be victims as men. Most are between the age of 80 and 89, and are living alone, trying to maintain their independence. But elderly men are similarly abused, as the generation before the boomers lives longer thanks to medical science, and become more dependent on caregivers.

Who pays? We all do. It’s not just the humiliation when the senior realizes what has happened. Many are too frightened of their caregiver, or of being left alone, to even report this crime. But once the money is drained, these seniors become wards of the Medicaid system — shuffled off to nursing homes and receiving the least competent care — all paid for by the taxpayers. Read more »

Ramey Man Found Guilty of Stealing from Client

Tuesday September 2nd 2014

CLEARFIELD – Jurors deliberated for approximately an hour Friday afternoon before finding a Ramey man guilty of stealing $120,000 from an elderly client while serving as a financial advisor in October of 2010.

Frank C. Stewart, 48, of Ramey was found guilty of theft by deception and theft by unlawful taking. He was also found guilty of one count of forgery for a handwritten note; he was found not guilty of forgery as related to an annuity check.

District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Stewart was represented by defense attorney Ron Collins. Judge Paul E. Cherry presided over the three-day trial.

Stewart will face a mandatory minimum of one year of incarceration for just the theft by deception charge since the victim was a senior citizen, said Shaw. He noted that Stewart didn’t have a prior record but has another theft case pending against him.

According to Shaw, the (Clearfield) county’s Area Agency on Aging handles a lot of cases similar to this one. He said he was proud of the agency’s protective service’s unit and wanted the community to be aware of its work. He also commended the CCAAA, local financial institutions and state police for their efforts into the “paper-intensive” investigation. Read more »

DA: Contractor Took $450,000 From Elderly Homeowner

Wednesday August 13th 2014

SHENANDOAH — Investigators in Schuylkill County are trying to find a contractor who allegedly ripped off an elderly man in Shenandoah.

Schuylkill County detectives say Anthony Montanari a contractor from Weston in Luzerne County took more than $450,000 from an elderly man in Shenandoah Heights, promising to do work on his home that was never finished.  Now detectives say one part of the man’s home is dangerous for him to use.  The money was paid to Montanari over several years and police say he used it to buy snowmobiles, dirt trucks, and property throughout the region. Read more »

Subscription via RSS or Email: