An elderly Forest Hills woman bilked out of close to $800,000 over four years by her home health aide said the theft left her feeling shocked and betrayed.
“I gave her money to buy things, but she kept it,” said Renee Fuld, 86, who had been under Jackie Pokuwaah’s care for seven years. “I had no idea it was happening. She was like family for a long time.”
Pokuwaah, 53, was convicted of stealing the cash after convincing her patient to sign hundreds of checks made payable to the defendant, which the health care aide would then deposit in her personal bank account, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Pokuwaah, of the Bronx, was convicted of five counts of second-degree grand larceny and five counts of criminal possession of stolen property, the DA said. She will be sentenced May 22 and faces up to 15 years in prison, said the DA.
Fuld, who is confined to a wheelchair, has limited use of her hands and suffers from cognitive impairment, signed hundreds of checks over to Pokuwaah over a four-year period. In addition to the checks the defendant received, Fuld paid her an annual salary of $81,000 and allowed Pokuwaah and her two children to live in the Forest Hills home rent-free, according to Fuld.
“I trusted her and I’m sorry I did,” said the senior citizen, whose husband died five years ago.
According to the district attorney, Fuld — who relied on Pokuwaah to tell her what the checks were for and the amounts — wrote checks made payable to the defendant in order to pay for food, laundry and other everyday expenses.
An investigation was launched after an employee at a Queens TD Bank became suspicious over the legitimacy of large checks being written from the account, Brown said.
The investigation revealed Fuld’s bank account showed checks totaling $791,054 had been made payable to Pokuwaah between January 2007 and March 2011, the DA said, and in one instance, a check for $1,700 carried a notation indicating that it was for ice cream.
Other checks routinely written for exorbitant amounts indicated they were for such things as laundry and groceries, Brown said.
Pokuwaah, a Ghanaian immigrant who came to the United States 19 years ago, remains in jail in lieu of $25,000 bail, said the DA.
“Home health aides are welcomed into the homes of the most vulnerable in our society. It is essential that they not use their position of trust to victimize those in their care as was done in this case,” Brown said. “The defendant used her influence over the victim to systematically steal her life savings. She must receive a lengthy prison sentence both as punishment and to serve as a warning to those who would target the weak or the elderly.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2012 Community News Group
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