Property manager sentenced for stealing tens of thousands from elderly tenant

A property manager at an Elizabeth apartment complex has been sentenced after admitting to siphoning tens of thousands of dollars out of an elderly tenant’s bank account over the course of about a year and a half, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo announced Monday.

Natalia Calderon-Diaz, 33, was ordered to serve five years of probation and to pay $75,000 in restitution to the estate of the 89-year-old victim, who died several weeks ago, leaving behind no surviving immediate family. She will be laid to rest next to her parents in a local cemetery later this week.

The case against Calderon-Diaz was the result of an investigation by the Special Prosecutions Unit of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, initiated upon a July 2019 referral from Adult Protective Services of Union County, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Cronin, who prosecuted the case.

The investigation, spearheaded by Prosecutor’s Office Detective Dennis Donovan, determined that the victim lived alone at the Linden Arms apartment complex on Linden Avenue in Elizabeth when she became acquainted with the defendant, who gradually gained her trust – and access to her bank account.

From December 2017 through June 2019, Calderon-Diaz withdrew tens of thousands of dollars from the account without the victim’s knowledge or permission, spending the money on lavish vacations to locales such as Las Vegas, Florida, and multiple Caribbean destinations, as well as high-end designer clothing, massages, and other items.

Calderon-Diaz was charged in September 2019, and shortly thereafter she pleaded guilty to third-degree theft, which does not carry the presumption of jail time for first-time offenders. Yet Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch remarked on the heinousness of the crime during sentencing, noting that the defendant singled out a frail, elderly, independently wealthy victim, with the primary aim of gaining and then betraying her trust by stealing from her.