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Health care aide ordered to repay $27,000 stolen from employer

A judge has ordered a home health care aide to repay more than $27,000 that she stole from her employer, but the victim says she has lost much more than that.

Ilona Tylwalk said her trust has been ruined.

Kathleen Appenheimer, 45, of Cheektowaga, also was sentenced to five years’ probation Wednesday by Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case after pleading guilty to grand larceny. Appenheimer forged Tylwalk’s name on more than 100 checks to herself between January 2010 and July 2014, and used the money to support a gambling habit. An alert friend of Tylwalk’s discovered the theft when he noticed an unusual number of checks written to the aide and asked Tylwalk how often she was paying her.

Tylwalk, of Williamsville, who has multiple sclerosis and has needed a wheelchair since 2006, told the judge she had kept Appenheimer in her employ even though the aide was not particularly gracious or pleasant for one reason.

“One thing I always said was Kathleen was honest and I could trust her,” said Tylwalk, 65. “I was totally wrong … Not only is there the money issue, but she destroyed my trust. I hope she gets some time in jail to think about what she did, because I don’t think she’s going to learn any other way,”

Case put that request on hold Wednesday and instead outlined the conditions of Appenheimer’s probation, including repaying the money at a rate of $400 monthly, or more should she find a better job. He also chastised the defendant sharply.

“I don’t know how you could do what you did to someone who is so courageously battling a horrible disease and who was so kind and generous to you,” he said. “It is astonishing to me.”

Appenheimer said in a statement she has worked as a home health aide since 1988 and this was her first offense.

She also said through her attorney that she had “turned to gambling to escape a life that had become unbearable,” noting that over the period of her crimes both her parents were seriously ill and her son was sent to jail for violating probation.

The judge indicated she could expect the same fate if she fails to meet his conditions, saying the sentence could be two and a third to seven years in prison.

Tylwalk’s attorney, Tim O’Meara, said after the ruling that his client also will be filing a civil suit to recover additional money she alleges Appenheimer stole from her, for a total of $46,000.

Assistant District Attorney Candace Vogel prosecuted the case.