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Gambling-addicted health aide gets prison for stealing from blind man

Kathy Oertelt, who cheated an 87-year-old blind man out of $75,000, blames her wrongdoing on gambling.

The federal judge who doled out her punishment Wednesday didn’t buy all of her story. She also bought a car and motorcycle with the money she stole, and the judge chided Oertelt for what she did to the man who trusted her with his care.

The victim, a veteran who authorized Oertelt to write checks on his behalf, died last month.

“I could throw the book at you,” U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny said. “You have a helpless victim and, with impunity, you took advantage of that person.”

Skretny sentenced Oertelt, 32, who has four children, to 18 months in prison, well short of the 21- to 27-month recommended sentence.

Defense attorney Scott M. Lupiani asked Skretny to consider Oertelt’s history of gambling and provided a letter from a local doctor documenting her evaluation of Oertelt and her diagnosis of a gambling addiction.

“I stole money from the victim and then gambled it away,” Oertelt told the judge. “Not a day goes by that I’m not sorry.”

Oertelt, a Town of Tonawanda health care provider, admitted using a signature stamp on 32 checks to herself that were either written without the victim’s knowledge or authority or were for dollar amounts he had not approved.

“Nothing can repay or fix what was done to the victim,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse.

In total, Oertelt defrauded the victim out of $75,333, money she will have to repay to his family.