Woodhaven mother charged with stealing from daughter’s medical malpractice settlement

By Bill Parry

A 31-year-old Woodhaven mother has been charged with stealing more than $65,000 from her pre-teen daughter’s malpractice lawsuit settlement and then using the money for plastic surgery on herself and numerous other personal expenses, according to the Queens district attorney.

Megan Mele faces up to 15 years in prison.

“The defendant is accused of stealing from her own child, who was disabled at birth and had the money set aside following a lawsuit settlement,” DA Richard Brown said. “Instead of safeguarding the money for her daughter’s future needs, the defendant is alleged to have thought only of herself. She allegedly used the child’s bank account as if it were her own piggy bank—dipping in for money to buy plane tickets, shop online, pay restaurant bills and even splurge on plastic surgery for herself. Her actions, if proven true, are reprehensible and must be punished.”

According to the charges, a 2007 settlement was reached in a medical malpractice suit on behalf of Mele’s daughter, born in 2004, who was diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury to her right arm. Because of nerve damage the child has extremely limited, if any, function from her right shoulder down to her hand.

The mother sued St. John’s Episcopal Hospital over her daughter’s injury in 2007, according to court records.

The settlement was structured for the girl to receive payments starting after her birthday in 2022. As part of the settlement, an account with more than $50,000 was established at Cross County Federal Savings in 2007 for the child’s benefit.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendant was required to submit requests to the court to make any withdrawals from the bank account, which was accruing interest. On March 27, 2015, the defendant allegedly submitted a forged court order to withdraw the funds, purportedly for the child to undergo surgery at a San Diego children’s hospital, and a bank check was issued in Mele’s name on that date for $47,000, the complaint said.

An investigation revealed that there was no record of the girl being a patient at the San Diego hospital but rather the defendant used a portion of the funds for a trip to Disneyland in California, Brown said. In addition to the trip to Disneyland, Mele allegedly spent the money on a liposuction procedure for a tummy tuck, airline tickets and Amazon.com purchases, as well as purchases at local retail stores, according to the DA’s office.

Mele allegedly filed two more bogus court orders later that year to withdrawal an additional $19,000, the DA said. The bank grew suspicious and the case was eventually referred to the Queens DA.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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