Two Lackawanna sisters who befriended a man with disabilities stole more than $54,000 from his bank account -- in more than 100 withdrawals dating back at least to June, police say.
The two women are accused of removing his automatic teller machine card from his residence, obtaining his personal identification number and making withdrawals that followed a consistent pattern.
"They would go to various ATMs, sometimes twice a day, up to three times a week -- usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Lackawanna Police Capt. Ronald Miller said. "They took out various amounts, but often the maximum, which is $500."
The victim didn't discover the thefts until a recent HSBC Bank check bounced, and he quickly realized that his account had dwindled to almost zero.
After he reported the thefts, Lackawanna Detectives Rodney Pietras and Daniel Cardi contacted bank officials, who had video surveillance tapes of the transactions.
Thursday night, the detectives arrested the two sisters -- Deborah Lalka, 39, of Fairdale Road and Robin Lalka, 37, of Abbott Road -- on charges of second-degree grand larceny, a felony, in the theft of the money; another grand-larceny charge, in the theft of the card; and identity theft.
The sisters were sent to the Erie County Holding Center on $10,000 bail each.
The stealing of ATM cards and the subsequent thefts of money aren't new to area police agencies.
But in most cases, the thieves make a few withdrawals then destroy the cards.
"We've had other cases like this, but never to this extent," Miller said.
Even at the maximum amount of $500 per withdrawal, stealing more than $54,000 would require at least 108 separate withdrawals.
Authorities suggest that people can prevent such multiple thefts by safeguarding their cards and checking their bank statements frequently.