Last week Edgar Hultman, a 76-year-old retired meteorologist living in Fresh Meadows, made a trip to Rikers Island carrying with him a bra.
He brought the underwear for Nancy Jace, his 36-year-old girlfriend and fellow Fresh Meadows resident who has been accused of bilking five elderly Queens men, including Hultman, and faces 15 years in prison.
But Hultman does not want to see Jace, who told him her name was Tina Ross, rot in jail. Instead, he hopes to see Jace a free woman.
They say she is a dangerous criminal and every word that she has told me is a lie, which may be true, Hultman said. But I dont care.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, over a three-year period Jace stole more than $259,000 from five men, who gave her gifts and money after she told them false tales about the deaths of relatives and their need for an operation.
Her cruel and manipulative stories took advantage of the gullibility of lonely old men, Brown said.
Jace, who had several aliases, pretended to be the girlfriends of the men, although she did not have sexual relations with any of them, authorities said. She was arrested in May and has been indicted on charges of grand larceny, attempted grand larceny and scheme to defraud.
A Romanian immigrant, Jace is married and has five children, according to a law enforcement source.
Although she told her victims she was in dire need of money, Jace actually lived richly, owning a Jaguar, a Mercedes and expensive jewelry while keeping $40,000 cash in her apartment, authorities said.
Hultman, however, described Jace not as cruel and manipulative but as a genius.
Her schemes, he said, were carefully thought out and complex. Once she told him she had to visit her grandmother in the emergency ward in the hospital. A woman claiming to be a nurse from the hospital called Hultman, telling him Tina says to tell you that grandmas all right, he said.
A mind like that, shes brilliant, Hultman said. She should be teaching in college.
He also called Jace caring.
If you go to bed and she leaves you a note on your pillow that says I love you, how can you say shes a violent criminal?
The two met on March 28, 2002, when Jace bumped into Hultman on the street and told him she recognized him, Hultman said.
They arranged to meet for coffee. Hultman, whose wife died in 1999 and has no children, was thrilled to have a date with the younger woman.
Shes a beautiful young blond, Hultman said. I saw a guy walk into a telephone pole looking at her.
The two began seeing each other on a regular basis. Often they would go shopping for clothing and jewelry. Hultman estimated he spent $30,000 on gifts for Jace.
Hultman admitted he sometimes became suspicious of Jace. He said he noticed that when she walked down the street, she made sure not to look someone in the eye, and she never let anybody take her picture.
But he did not worry.
I was having such a good time, he said.
Hultman chronicled his days with Jace in his diary, which he has been keeping since he was a young man.
On the days he saw Jace, he marked on top of the page, Yes Wow! For the other days, he marked, No.
One day, Hultman pulled out a ring and asked Jace to marry him.
I have nobody, Hultman said. I said, I want you to marry me. She said, OK, Ill think it over.
On May 9, Jace was arrested outside Hultmans apartment.
The police had contacted Hultman two days before, and he reluctantly agreed to help them with her capture, he said.
They slammed her against the wall and handcuffed her. When she went down, I said, I love you, I love you. I screamed in the air. She would not let anybody look at her face.
Since May 9, Hultman has visited Jace in prison several times, although he called the trip an ordeal.
When he last saw her, he gave her a big hug and asked her how she was doing.
I said, Smile. I want to see you smile, Hultman said. She doesnt smile much.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.
©2003 Community News Group
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