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White-Collar Crime

Elder law attorney charged in $2M theft, accused of helping senior care company owner strip clients

Posted Mar 20, 2014 3:35 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A New Jersey elder law practitioner is facing criminal charges along the owner of a senior care company and two other individuals who allegedly were involved in a scheme that targeted elderly clients without close family and stripped them—and some of their estates—of assets.

Attorney Barbara Lieberman, 62, and social worker Jan Van Holt, 57, were arrested Wednesday jailed in Atlantic County in lieu of $300,000 bail. They face charges of conspiracy, theft by deception and money laundering, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Jersey Times.

Lieberman and Van Holt are accused of stealing from clients of "A Better Choice," a company operated by Van Holt that purported to offer “custom designed life care and legal financial planning” to seniors who wanted to continue living in their own homes as they aged. The two women allegedly took $2 million from 10 victims between 2006 and 2013. Only one of the claimed victims is still living.

Acting state attorney general John J. Hoffman said the defendants obtained through false pretenses—or forged—a power of attorney from victims to take control of their bank accounts, the Inquirer reports. In some cases, the defendants allegedly executed victims' wills and continued to siphon funds after their deaths.

Investigators searched Lieberman's home and Northfield law office and have frozen about $5 million in assets, the South Jersey Times says. A tip from the public guardian's office sparked the criminal investigation.

Before opening "A Better Choice," Van Holt was a caseworker for Atlantic County Adult Protective Services, the Collingswood Patch reports. The company provided services such as driving clients to appointments, paying their bills and performing household chores and running errands for them. Lieberman and Van Holt are accused of transferring victims' funds to accounts they controlled and siphoning money away as they also paid bills for their unsuspecting elderly clients while waiting for them to die.

Lieberman and Van Holt referred clients to each other, and Lieberman allegedly drafted power of attorneys and a wills for multiple victims. She herself held the power of attorney in some cases, and she and others given that authority used it to write checks and make electronic transfers to the defendants, authorities say.

The articles don't include any comment from the defendants or their legal counsel.

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