On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, a Union County Grand Jury returned a three-count indictment charging a Linden resident with stealing more than $160,000 from an elderly neighbor’s life savings. The defendant, Joanne Williams, 56, had agreed to handle the victim’s finances through a power of attorney. According to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, during a 22-month time period between 2009 and 2011, Williams used the neighbor’s money to pay off her own credit card bills, buy herself a car and purchase thousands of dollars per month in merchandise at local grocery stores. The 88-year-old victim treated Williams like her own daughter but was unaware that Williams was using her life savings to pay for her personal expenses. A former bank manager, the victim planned carefully for her retirement and managed to live frugally on her investments.
The theft was discovered when the accountant who prepared the victim’s tax returns noticed large withdrawals being made from her IRA and annuities and contacted Catholic Charities in Cranford to report that the victim was being financially exploited. Catholic Charities in turn reported the case to the Special Prosecutions Unit of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office which began an investigation in the summer of 2011. Williams was charged in the indictment with Theft, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property and Misapplication of Entrusted Property, all crimes of the second degree. She is facing 10 years in prison if she is convicted of the charges at trial.