Delaware County police arrest a Sweetheart Swindler

Watch report from Action News
March 22, 2014 11:35:47 AM PDT
Police have arrested a woman they are calling the Sweetheart Swindler.

45-year-old Sylvia Ristick of Prospect Park is being charged with stealing the life savings of an 84-year-old man who believed he was in a romantic relationship with her.

Authorities say it is one of the oldest swindles in the book, and is commonly used by members of an organization known as the "Gypsy Community." Police say Ristick is a member.

Action News caught up with her at a fortune telling business on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, but she refused to open the door.

"We were able to document over $44,000 that was taken from him from what we're calling a Sweetheart Swindle," said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

Authorities say Sylvia Ristick, also known as Sylvia Ristick George, befriended the elderly Drexel Hill man.

"He believed he was in a relationship with her, that she actually cared about him, and she was able to be convincing," said Whelan.

But Ristick soon changed the ruse.

"She said to him, 'I need money because I have colon cancer,' and so he would give her money because she had cancer, then it was kidneys and he continued to give her money," said Whelan.

But authorities say she did not have any medical problems, but the victim was unaware.

She was using his ATM card to make withdrawals, his credit cards to buy furniture and other items for herself. She had even talked him into co-signing a loan for her to buy a Corvette.

"She wanted more and more and more until she comes to the point where she depletes his assets, and then decides that she is going to move on," said Whelan.

Police say the 84-year-old victim's home is in foreclosure and he is in collections with a number of other creditors.

"We believe that they are an organized group that preys on senior citizens," said Whelan.

District Attorney Whelan is asking anyone who suspects a senior citizen is being abused, neglected or exploited to call the Delaware County District Attorney's Senior Exploitation Unit at 610-891-5249.

Bail was set for Sylvia Ristick at $50,000, but she was later released on her own recognizance.

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