A routine traffic stop by Bloomfield police earlier this year played a role in the investigation of, and guilty plea by, an East Orange man who stole $50,000 from a 90-year-old, dementia-stricken friend, authorities reported.
On Friday, in Essex County Superior Court, defendant Gilbert Vaughn, 64, pleaded guilty to second-degree insurance fraud, third-degree unlawful theft by taking and fourth-degree identity theft.
Vaughn and his victim reportedly were residents of the same senior citizens housing facility.
According to New Jersey acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Ronald Chillemi, prosecutor for the Office of Insurance Fraud, Vaughn had coerced the victim into withdrawing the money from an annuity account when the state Office of the Public Guardian for the Elderly began protecting the man’s finances.
In July 2013, the 90-year-old was placed into state guardianship. In August 2013, the $50,000 was cashed out before the company holding his annuity froze the account.
On June 3 of this year, Bloomfield Police Officer Anthony Piccinno and Sgt. Thomas Fano pulled Vaughn over on Bloomfield Ave. for a motor vehicle violation. Authorities said he was operating the victim’s Toyota and, when asked for identity, produced victim’s driver’s license. A fraud investigation followed.
“Vaughn was well-aware of the victim’s diminished capacity and had followed the public guardian’s legal proceedings closely,” said Chillemi, adding, “His crimes are disturbing, especially given that he exploited a susceptible man with dementia.”
Hoffman said, “Some in New Jersey’s elderly population are able to rely on their family or friends to assist them with their financial affairs. The victim in this case, sadly, was not that fortunate.” The AG called Vaughn “a criminal who viewed the victim as easy prey.”
Sentencing is set for Nov. 14. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend a five-year term in state prison.
– Karen Zautyk