CLEVELAND - Eighty-one year old Evelyn Chudzinski only owed $14,000 on her Cleveland home, but Cuyahoga County Prosecutors have charged three suspects with taping into her home equity, and playing a role in the loss of her property.
Richard While Jr., Sharon Stucco, and Gary Thomas appeared in Cuyahoga County court to face multiple felony counts of identity fraud.
Assistant Prosecutor Frankie Goldberg told NewsChannel5 exclusively that While was the leader of the alleged plot. Goldberg said the trio of suspects befriended Chudzinski in May 2008, allegedly telling her they needed her personal information to help her refinance her Finn Avenue home.
"They received $50,000, Chudzinski had no idea what she was signing," said Goldberg. "They refinanced the home she was living in for 20 years, and used her identity to allegedly buy an investment property on Dakota Avenue."
Chudzinski later her lost her home to foreclosure, and months later passed away, before charges where brought against the suspects.
While, Stucco and Thomas all pleaded not guilty, the case has been assigned to Judge Eileen T. Gallagher, and is set to start on July 17.
Meanwhile, Prosecutor Goldberg praised the Ohio Legislature with recently increasing the statute of limitations on crimes against the elderly to five years.
"People need to be accountable for these crimes, they are absolutely egregious, they're despicable, and we really need to send a message, we need to be vigilant in protecting our senior population," said Goldberg.
If convicted, While could be sentenced to up to 21 years in jail, Stucco 15 years and Thomas 3 years.
Stay with NewsChannel5 and newsnet5.com for updates on this developing story.
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