Linden Woman who Stole more than $75,000 from an Elderly Neighbor Pleads Guilty

A Linden woman who stole more than $75,000 from an elderly neighbor she befriended pleaded guilty to theft and faces seven years in prison when she is sentenced in January.

Joanne Williams, 56, was due to appear in court on Monday before Judge Scott Moynihan to schedule a trial date but decided to plead guilty instead, according to her attorney, Joseph Spagnoli.

The case was referred to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in May 2011 after the victim’s tax accountant contacted Catholic Charities in Cranford to report that Williams had made excessive cash withdrawals from the victim’s accounts. Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said that, “Williams used a power of attorney to transfer the victim’s life savings to two joint bank accounts. She then used debit cards issued on the accounts to withdraw thousands of dollars per month in cash at local grocery stores for her own use and to pay off her own credit card bills.”

The 89-year old victim is a former bank manager who had carefully planned for her retirement and lived frugally on her investments, prosecutors said. According to Assistant Prosecutor Ann Rubin, who handled the case, the power of attorney allowed Williams to use the victim’s money to pay for the victim’s medical care and expenses but not her own. As part of her plea Williams also agreed to make restitution for the money she stole.