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Three elderly women robbed by those they trusted

A  North Tonawanda man admitted duping an elderly woman out of more than $9,000, telling her he was investing her money.

A Cheektowaga health care aide admitted stealing $41,590 from an 82-year-old woman who was in her care.

And a Cheektowaga man admitted stealing $188,000 from an elderly neighbor, who thought she was writing checks for her household expenses.

All three thieves admitted in court this week that they took advantage of elderly women who had placed their trust in them.

The cases are not related but they fit a disturbing pattern that Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn fears will only grow worse as the county's elderly population grows.

"These people prey on the elderly. In Western New York, we have more and more elderly people who are living longer," Flynn said. "A lot of people who are elderly ... don’t have family here to watch out for them. You put all those together and it creates a problem. It's a perfect storm."

Thomas Marchese, 64, of Cheektowaga pleaded guilty in Erie County Court to third-degree grand larceny for stealing $188,000 from a 94-year-old elderly neighbor, according to the district attorney's office.

Marchese lived across the street from the victim who Flynn said was a life-long family friend. "He was taking care of her, buying groceries for her, helping out over the years," Flynn said said. But he was also helping himself to her money.

From January 2012 to October 2016, Marchese had the victim write several checks that she believed were going toward her household expenses. Instead, Marchese was cashing them for his own personal use. The case was investigated by Cheektowaga Police Detective James Genson.

Marchese is scheduled to be sentenced by Erie County Court Judge Kenneth Case on June 22. He faces up to seven years in prison.

In a separate, unconnected case, Mary Talbot, 54, of Cheektowaga also pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, as well as five counts of forgery for stealing money from an 82-year-old West Seneca woman.

Talbot was the victim’s home health care aide. "All her family is out of state," Flynn said of the victim. "So this home health care aid was taking care of her all by herself."

From January 2015 to May 2016, she stole $41,590 by forging the woman’s signature on checks, making them payable to herself and then cashing them, authorities said. West Seneca Police Detective Ken Moreno is credited for his investigative work in that case.

Talbot also faces up to seven years in prison when she is sentenced by Case on June 22.

In the third case, James Bass, 51, of North Tonawanda pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the third and fourth degree for stealing $9,145 from a Cheektowaga woman.

Bass was the woman's former insurance agent, according to prosecutors. From October 2015 to February 2016, Bass cashed checks written by the victim who believed the money was going toward investments. The Cheektowaga Police Department investigated the case.

Bass was fired from his job but convinced his victim that a letter informing her that he was no longer with the company was incorrect and that he had simply been transferred, Flynn said. He convinced the woman, who had bought a legitimate annuity through him, to send him checks to make more investments, which instead he pocketed.

Bass is scheduled to be sentenced April 5, 2019 to allow him to complete a two-year drug diversion program first.

Candace K. Vogel of the District Attorney’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Bureau prosecuted all three cases.

The cases show that more vigilance is needed to protect the elderly, Flynn said.

"We have three guilty pleas in one day," he said. "That tells you right there that's it's prevalent."

He pointed out a recent phone scams in which a person calls an elderly person in the middle of the night, pretending to be holding a grandchild in jail and demanding a wire transfer of money.

Flynn has given presentations at senior centers in West Seneca and Cheektowaga to give older people tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of a scam.

"If something sounds fishy call your family members," he said.

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