Woman pleads guilty to stealing $430K

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Joan Miller, who is also known as Susan Wong, entered a guilty plea Oct. 2 before Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt to grand larceny and charges of attempted forgery, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

Chin-Brandt indicated she would sentence Miller to a term of two to six years in prison Nov. 8, Brown said.


Edna Livingston, who had hired Miller in 1998, had no money left to pay her bills and was forced to sell her house and move into a nursing home, according to Manhattan attorney Herzl Eisenstadt, her court-appointed guardian.

"It's the minimum that's due to her," said Eisenstadt. "She should serve the entire six years and after that I believe we'll get her deported."

Miller holds a passport from British Guyana, Eisenstadt said.

After bilking Livingston out of her life savings, Miller moved in with Dennis McGowan, a retired police officer who suffers from multiple sclerosis. While working as his housekeeper, she tried to sell his Forest Hills apartment, the district attorney said.

"The defendant perpetrated one of the most despicable crimes that can be committed - stealing from the elderly and the infirm," Brown said. "Swindling honest people out of their hard earned money is just as serious as a violent crime."       

Eisenstadt said the district attorney accepted the plea bargain because Livingston and McGowan were not in position to testify against Miller.

"The two people who would have to testify against her are somewhat feeble and difficult in their emotions and recollections," Eisenstadt said. "That played a significant part in the DA's acceptance of a plea."

An accomplished artist with a degree from Parsons School of Design, Livingston lived alone from 1974, when her husband died, until meeting Miller at a food fair in 1997.

Miller moved in with Livingston at 100-13 75th Ave. in July 1998 and agreed to perform housekeeping duties in exchange for $60 a week and room and board, according to the charges.

Eisenstadt said Miller then systematically conned Livingston out of all she owned, emptying her savings and stock accounts, selling her furniture and jewelry and taking a reverse mortgage of almost $200,000 out on her home.       

The complaint said from January 1998 to January 2000, Miller wrote 96 checks totaling $286,819 on the victim's Chase Manhattan Bank account and made 159 debit card withdrawals amounting to $57,647. An additional $91,710 was stolen from another account, the DA said.

In 1998, Miller reported more than $200,000 in gambling debts incurred on trips to Atlantic City and to Uncasville, Conn. on her tax return, the DA said.

Eisenstadt, who evaluated the situation for the courts before becoming Livingston's guardian, said he discovered that Miller had also accrued significant debt in the elderly woman's name. In addition to the accumulating mortgage, Miller owed money to Con Edison and Chase Manhattan, he said.

With her bank accounts depleted, Livingston was forced to sell her house and go into a nursing home, Eisenstadt said.

Miller then moved into McGowan's co-op apartment on 112th Street in Forest Hills beginning in July 2000. The retired police officer agreed to pay her $100 a week to cook and do light chores, the district attorney said.

After being alerted to the charges against Livingston last year by neighbors who saw Miller taking limousines and removing furniture from the house, the DA's office said investigators traced the defendant to McGowan's apartment.

Armed with a search warrant, the DA's investigators found in the co-op a power-of-attorney forged by Miller, the DA said. After speaking with the building's management agency, the investigators found that Miller had put the apartment up for sale.

Eisenstadt is glad Miller is on her way to prison.

"It is good to know that she will be out of circulation," he said. "We will do everything possible from our viewpoint to see to it that she serves the maximum possible sentence within the confines of her plea bargain."

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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