A 94-year-old Lockport woman trusted her niece and grandniece to manage her million-dollar fortune and then planned to will them the money after her death.
But, Charlotte S. Denny, 70, a former local resident now living in Jefferson City, Tenn., and her 47-year-old daughter, Candace R. Bradley of Holley, couldn't stand the wait.
The mother-daughter tandem took only seven months to bilk Denny's elderly aunt of more than $1.3 million.
Wednesday, they admitted to reduced charges of third-degree grand larceny before Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza in connection with the thefts that took place between October 2005 and May 2006.
Sperrazza spared them prison Wednesday but sternly insisted they pay the money back. The two face up to seven years in prison for the crime.
"I am persuaded that restitution is the primary goal of everyone, and in exchange for that, there will be no incarceration," the judge told them. Bradley's attorney, James Piampiano, asked Sperrazza to review the thieves' financial situations and set "fair and just" monthly payments at sentencing.
"I will choose a figure that's fair and just, but also painful," the judge shot back.
The two women must share repayment of $1,364,016.85. Sperrazza demanded payment of $700,000, "or as close to it as they can come," before sentencing Oct. 11.
Denny and Bradley, who will be placed on probation for five years, will have to make monthly payments as part of the conditions of their probation. They also will have to sign confessions of judgment, placing a lien on their future income, for the amount left unpaid after the five years are up.
The case began with tips to the county Social Services Department's adult protective unit, according to Assistants District Attorneys Brian D. Seaman and Heather A. DeCastro.
Denny and Bradley were already about four months into looting the victim, who has no children, when she filed a new will in February 2006 naming them as her sole heirs.
About the same time, the victim, who receives home health care and has a legal guardian, had given Bradley her power of attorney, allowing her to access to the woman's accounts as well as write checks and transfer money out, Seaman said.
The power of attorney was subsequently revoked in May 2006. Prosecutors said the victim was looking forward to Wednesday's court session.
"She is sharp and she's been waiting for this day," said DeCastro. "She is a feisty, cogent-thinking woman who wants justice."
During the court proceedings, she openly questioned Denny as to why she took the money.
"I don't think it would be productive to answer that," responded Denny's attorney, John Speranza.
But Sperrazza insisted.
"I took care of her," Denny said. "She promised me certain things, and I guess I got carried away.
"I paid off my bankruptcy."
Both women and Bradley's son will mortgage their homes to contribute to the up-front repayment to the victim, according to Seaman.
Also, a savings account of Bradley's, which Piampiano said is worth $338,000 to $350,000, will be turned over to the victim at once, Sperrazza ordered, after saying she'd heard the victim was "considering taking out loans to make ends meet."
Caseworker Mary C. Seaman, no relation to the prosecutor, worked on the case along with Sheriff's Office Investigators Raymond Degan and Patrick Weidel.