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9/2/2015 - Aston woman charged with exploiting 79-year-old terminally-ill neighbor

Media, Pa – Today Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan announced the arrest of an Aston Township woman who financially exploited an elderly, terminally-ill man after she assumed the role of Power of Attorney and was hired to care for him during the final days of his life. 

Melissa Deal, 39, of 30 Victoria Drive is facing multiple theft charges for stealing more than $88,500 from James Mooney, who is now deceased, by making herself his beneficiary without his consent and writing numerous checks out to herself. She is charged with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and theft by deception and false impersonation, all felonies of the third degree.   

The arrest comes at the conclusion of an investigation conducted by County Detectives Edward Kazlo and Anthony Ruggieri of the District Attorney’s Senior Exploitation Unit which began after an anonymous letter was received stating that Melissa Deal had taken advantage of the victim, James Mooney who was 79-years-old, and his daughter who is also a senior. 

The victim’s daughter, Jaqueline Desher, and Melissa Deal were once friends and neighbors. In late Aug. 2013, Melissa Deal who is a registered nurse was introduced as a potential caretaker for James Mooney while he was patient at Riddle Memorial Hospital receiving care for terminal prostate cancer. After Mooney was discharged from the hospital, he moved into his daughter’s house. Melissa Deal, who lives next door, was hired at a rate of $30.00 per hour to care for Mooney and was paid $1,000 in advance for her service.

On Oct. 1, 2013, Melissa Deal was made Attorney in fact under Power of Attorney of James Mooney and the Executrix of his estate.  With this, Deal had access to the victim’s accounts.

The victim’s daughter described the final days of her father’s life as him being in constant pain, groggy, and sleeping most of the day. At this time, James Mooney was on various medications for his terminal cancer including several painkillers. On Oct. 10, 2013, the victim’s daughter recalled Deal sitting on her sofa with Mooney’s laptop computer while he slept in a chair during which time there was no conversation between the two.   James Mooney died two days later, on Oct. 12, 2013.

After a search warrant was executed on Mooney’s Fidelity Investments account, authorities learned that Melissa Deal had added herself as one of Mooney’s beneficiaries, without his knowledge or consent, on Oct. 12, 2013. With this, Deal received $56,450.57 after his death.

In the anonymous letter that was received it stated, “Melissa Deal was paying bills for her friends in order to keep them quiet.” Through the course of the investigation it was discovered that one of those friends was asked by Deal to be a witness to Mooney changing his will. It was later confirmed that Melissa Deal had paid her friend’s electric bill after she agreed to be a witness. 

According to account records, on Oct. 10, 2013, Deal issued a check to herself for $10,000, drawn from Mooney’s bank account, with “gift for care, per Jim” written in the memo section. Deal signed the check with her name and the initials POA. Another check was issued that same day for $10,000 written out to Deal’s husband. Both checks were posted on Oct. 15, just three days after James Mooney’s death.

In total, Melissa Deal wrote 28 checks to herself, her husband and/or a combination of both names, with 24 of the checks posted the same day they were written. The total amount of money Melissa Deal fraudulently removed from James Mooney’s estate is $88,630.75.

Melissa Deal surrendered to authorities on Aug. 26, and arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Diane M. Holefelder who set bail at $35,000 unsecured. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 9.

“I want commend Det. Kazlo and Det. Ruggeri who work diligently to protect our elderly residents and bring justice for their families,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “We consider crimes against seniors especially heinous because they are our more vulnerable residents. In this particular case, a caretaker in the medical profession was entrusted to act in the victim’s best interests and provide comfort and care during his final days. Instead, she siphoned his accounts for her own personal benefit.”

The District Attorney’s Senior Exploitation Unit was created to solely investigate crimes against seniors and prosecute those who cheat, abuse or deceive our older residents. If you suspect a senior is being abused, neglected or exploited, call the District Attorney’s Senior Exploitation Unit at 610-891-5249.