PLAINS TWP. — As a 97-year-old woman recuperated in a nursing home from a fall, a former neighbor who cut her grass allegedly stole $118,000 from her bank account, police said Monday.
Plains Township police arrested Luke Marek, 36, last known address as Burke Street, Plains Township, on Monday afternoon, alleging he wrote three checks to himself in July and August from the woman’s checking account.
Marek was arraigned by District Judge Joseph Carmody in West Pittston on three counts each of theft and forgery, and one count each of identity theft, computer trespass, unlawful use of a computer and criminal use of communication facility. He was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $30,000 bail.
Police said the elderly woman reported the missing money on Aug. 19.
According to the criminal complaint:
The elderly woman told police she inherited $1.1 million from her sister who died about eight years ago. She was in a nursing home recovering from a fall in July and no one had power of attorney over her finances.
She discovered three suspicious withdrawals from her checking account noticing Marek allegedly wrote checks to himself.
Bank records allegedly showed Marek drafted a $13,000 check on July 7, a $30,000 check on July 26, and a $75,000 check with no date to himself from the woman’s checking account, the complaint says.
The woman told police she has known Marek for many years as he used to live next to her and cut her grass and perform other yard work.
Police allege in the complaint a computer traced to a Burke Street address where Marek lived in June was used to set up online banking with the elderly woman’s checking account. The bank account was set up to divert all of the elderly woman’s bank statements online instead of being mailed to her home, the complaint says.
Police said Marek’s email and mobile number were used to set up the online bank account.
The woman told police she did not set up the online bank account and she does not have an email address, the complaint says.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Oct. 22 before District Judge Diana Malast in Plains Township.