The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 17, 2014

Richland man accused of stealing from dying aunt

JOHNSTOWN — A  Richland Township man was jailed Wednesday after police accused him of using a power of attorney to rip off his 75-year-old aunt.

The accused con man weaseled his way into the woman’s life after getting out of prison and cajoled her into granting him power of attorney as she lay dying in the hospital, Richland Township police said.

Police charged 47-year-old Robert Allen Vasilinda with theft, receiving stolen property, identity theft, forgery and writing bad checks.

“It’s a classic case of elder abuse,” Richland police Detective Thomas Keirn said.

“He took that power of attorney and bought a $29,000 truck while she’s laying on her deathbed,” he said.

The woman granted her nephew power of attorney in July 2013 after he was released from a West Virginia state prison, Keirn said.

Vasilinda then proceeded to raid her finances and write checks from bogus banks accounts opened in her name, he said.

The woman received Social Security benefits and small pension payments via direct deposit.

“Every single time those deposits were made, he drew all the money out using an ATM,” Keirn said.

The woman later died in a nursing facility.

Vasilinda was charged in connection with the purchase of a 2011 Dodge Ram from Tri Star of Indiana and writing $3,500 in phony checks drawn from Bank of America.

His arrest caps a six-month-long investigation.

The alleged fraud came to light when the woman’s daughter began examining finances after she became executrix of her mother’s estate.

Vasilinda is expected to be charged with stealing more than $6,000 over six months, Keirn said.

“He’s a con man,” Keirn said. “It’s a multitude of different crimes he’s committed.”

Vasilinda, of the 100 block of Metzler Street, was arraigned by District Judge John Barron of Stonycreek Township and sent to the Cambria County Prison after failing to post 10 percent of $40,000 bond.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.


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