Police have arrested two Terryville women who are accused of stealing around $800,000 from an elderly New Haven woman over several years and gambling away hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The victim suffered from alcohol addiction and the two women plied her with alcohol to cloud her judgment and changed the locks on the woman’s house, according to police.
Authorities said they obtained several warrants and suspect the theft was going on for approximately 10 years, but said the statute of limitations allows police to charge the suspects, 71-year-old Sandra Pelkey and 60-year-old Mary Jeannie Benedetto, for the provable crimes committed in the past five years.
The investigation began in June 2017, when a global financial crimes compliance investigator for Bank of America contacted police with concerns that one of his clients was being kept trapped in her home by “caregivers” and that there was an unexplained removal of funds from the victim’s accounts.
The victim’s wealth management advisor at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, who had worked with the victim for approximately 20 years, expressed similar concerns about a change in her client’s spending patterns.
Police interviewed the victim and learned that she employed Benedetto as caregiver. The victim also told police that Benedetto’s acquaintance, Pelkey, was a carpenter and had been hired to renovate her home.
Police and a social worker began to investigate further. Police said that after a nine-month investigation, police determined there were multiple suspicious transactions draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from the victim’s accounts and into the hands of Pelkey and Benedetto.
On top of that, the victim’s daughter told police her mother had struggled with alcoholism, and she believed Benedetto and Pelkey may have been purposely supplying her mother with alcohol. The victim’s daughter also told police that her mother did not have the access code to her own home and she had to ask Pelkey to be let in. The home was also fitted with a surveillance system to keep watch on the victim, according to police.
Investigators determined that Pelkey and Benedetto made frequent trips to Mohegan Sun Casino to gamble, and that the casino trips appeared to coincide with the withdrawals from the victim’s accounts. Police determined that both suspects had player’s accounts. According to those accounts, Pelkey had lost over $16,000 gambling at the casino, and Benedetto had lost over $751,000, police said.
Additionally, police said during the investigation detectives uncovered information that suggests that Pelkey and Benedetto used a similar scheme to steal from an elderly resident of West Haven, but he never pressed charges. That information was turned over to West Haven police.
Police secured arrest warrants claiming that Pelkey and Benedetto controlled the victim and stole funds from her for years, and used much of the money to gamble. Pelkey is accused of stealing $22,712.66. Benedetto is accused of stealing $594,960.71.
Both Benedetto and Pelkey were charged with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.
The victim in this case died on April 5, 2018. Benedetto and Pelkey are next due in court on May 4.
“Such victims lose faith in the world and the system that was supposed to protect them, for even if the perpetrators are caught and ordered to pay restitution, many offenders use any means necessary to avoid paying, often liquidating their assets and hiding them out of reach or declaring bankruptcy,” New Haven police said in a media release.