PITTSTON — A woman charged with swindling more than $20,000 from her aunt before and after the aunt died strongly denied the allegations leveled against her by Pittston Township police and her family.
Donna Deleo, 53, of Rock Street, Pittston Township, said she took what she believed was owed to her for taking care of Loretta Musto for nearly five years. Deleo said no one from Musto’s family would take or care for the elderly woman except for her.
Musto died March 29, 2013. She was 102.
“I did not take any money,” Deleo said Wednesday after she was arraigned on two felony counts of theft by District Judge Alexandra Kokura Kravitz in Pittston.
“She was my aunt. Family members accused me. They didn’t take care of her; I took care of her 24/7 for five years, and no one from her family took care of her or called me to offer help or give me a break,” she said.
Police allege Deleo could not account for $17,552.81 from Musto’s accounts and used Musto’s bank card to purchase items in the amount of $2,705.39. Money was withdrawn from Musto’s accounts before and after she died, police allege.
According to the criminal complaint:
Carol Pace, Musto’s niece, reported in May 2013 that she felt Musto was financially exploited. Pace said Musto had been living with Deleo, and Deleo was designated as having power-of-attorney over Musto’s affairs in 2009.
Pace allegedly told police Musto had $8,700 in a burial account and the account only had $5,200. Pace also said Deleo transferred about $73,000 from Musto’s account to another account when Deleo attained power-of-attorney, the complaint says.
Police allege Pace reported Musto never had a bank card to withdrawal money from ATMs. Pace alleged she discovered Musto’s bank card was used at businesses in the Pittston area and to make multiple cash withdrawals.
Musto had a will designating her estate was to be divided among Pace and two men. Deleo was the executor. Pace stated she never received any funds from the remainder of Musto’s estate, according to the complaint.
Police used search warrants to obtain Musto’s bank records that were examined by a certified fraud expert at Temple University. The examination showed unaccounted funds from Musto’s accounts, the complaint says.
Before she was arraigned, Deleo said money Musto kept under a mattress was missing and Deleo blamed a family member for taking the cash. She further stated she used Musto’s accounts to pay Musto’s personal and health care bills and property taxes.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled on July 16.