Police: Home health aide stole over $680K

February 2, 2011 8:40:36 PM PST
A home health aide is accused of stealing the life savings of an elderly veteran.

Medford police say 45-year-old Marie-Jo Cherestal is responsible for stealing over $682,000 from various bank accounts belonging to 85-year-old Claude Levesque.

"She found out my pin number and my ATM which I blame myself because I took her to the banks to withdrawal because I had to give her some money to buy food," Levesque said.

Police say Levesque permitted Cherestal to add her name to his bank accounts under the guise of helping him with his daily needs. He says Cherestal's requests went beyond his bank accounts.

"She wanted me to give her power of attorney, but I wouldn't do that," Levesque said.

According to police, Cherestal wrote checks to pay her own bills, and even the mortgage for her Medford Township home.

"We do know she spent a lot of money on her house; her house was luxuriously decorated," Lt. Jeff Wagner of the Medford Police Department said.

Allegedly, the thefts occurred in 2009.

Toward year's end, authorities say TD Bank contacted police following a suspicious $20,000 withdrawal, which kicked off the investigation.

In a statement Cherestal's attorney says, in part, "The State has not provided us with any documents or evidence demonstrating that she has performed any criminal acts. Ms. Cherestal is a woman of exceptional morals, ethics, and reputation, and looks forward to being exonerated quickly."

"It's a very sad, sickening story that this woman would take advantage of him like that and take everything that he had worked so hard for all these years and steal it right away from him," Wagner said.

Cherestal is being held in lieu of bail. Authorities say it appeared she acted alone, and that Levesque is her only victim. But they are asking families of former clients to come forward, if they believe their loved one was taken advantage of.