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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

A Jamaica man was arrested and charged with stealing over $100,000 from an elderly friend who, in light of her failing health, named him her power of attorney.

Herman Smith, 68, was charged with second-degree larceny, second-degree attempted larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and endangering the welfare of an incompetent person. If convicted, Smith faces up to 15 years in prison.

According to the charges, on Sept. 17, 2014, the 83-year-old victim executed a Power of Attorney, which authorized Smith to act as her agent due to her failing health and eyesight. Smith was not granted permission to transfer and/or withdraw monies for any purpose other than to assist her with her financial responsibilities.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that Smith allegedly paid the victim’s bills and represented her at a real estate closing for a property she owned on North Columbus Avenue in Freeport, Long Island. The victim moved to North Carolina in September 2015, and upon leaving New York, she authorized Smith to represent her at the sale of a second property she owned on Parsons Avenue in Freeport.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim had two Chase accounts and upon their review, it was allegedly revealed that prior to July 10, 2015, the address on her Chase accounts was listed as the victim’s Parsons Avenue residence and that monthly statements were sent to that location.

On Aug. 31, 2015, it is alleged, a check for $114,036 — the proceeds of a real estate sale — was made payable to the victim and endorsed by the victim and Smith. The check was deposited into one of the victim’s accounts at a Chase Bank branch located near Smith’s Queens residence.

It is alleged that between Sept. 2, 2016, and Sept. 10, 2016, Smith unlawfully transferred a total of $65,000 from the victim’s account to another Chase account that belonged to him. It is also said that he unlawfully made three separate cash withdrawals totaling $33,475.08 from the victim’s account. Charges also say that two checks, totaling $3,343, were made payable to the victim and were also unlawfully deposited into Smith’s Chase account.

A further review of Chase records allegedly found that Smith’s account listed a second account holder – Yvette Kelly, a 64-year-old female who also had added Smith to her bank account via a Power of Attorney agreement. When Ms. Kelly died on June 10, 2014, it is alleged that Smith kept her account open.

It is also alleged that between Feb. 18, 2014 and June 1, 2015, Smith transferred more than $80,000 from his Chase account to the Chase account belonging to Ms. Kelly and that $76,287 was removed from Ms. Kelly’s account between Feb. 18, 2014, and March 25, 2015.

Prosecutors said that Smith allegedly took advantage of the first victim’s Discover card, which she had held since October 1991 and had a $15,100 line of credit through June 4, 2015. According to the charges, on June 3, 2015, a cash advance check was completed in the amount of $10,600 and payable to the victim.

Between Nov. 28, 2015 and Dec. 28, 2015, the victim’s Discover card was used in Atlantic City, NJ, on 13 different occasions for a total of $6,541.50 in cash advances.

Finally, it is alleged that an application was submitted to New York Life Insurance Company on behalf of the victim for a Guaranteed Lifetime Annuity with the sole beneficiary listed as Smith, who was put down on the application as the victim’s spouse. Documents were submitted to New York Life seeking to liquidate the funds in an open investment account that the victim had with David Lerner and Associates.

An investigator from David Lerner met with the victim at her home to address the request to close the account. Smith was allegedly at the meeting and stated  that he had Power of Attorney and was authorized to move the victim’s money from the David Lerner account over to New York Life. The investigator allegedly informed Smith that David Lerner would not accept the Power of Attorney documents and had to interview their client.

While speaking to the victim, the investigator was allegedly told by the victim that she was satisfied with the David Lerner account and did not want to the account transferred to New York Life and she did not authorize the transfer on May 12, 2015.

Smith was arrested and arraigned before the Queens Criminal Court on Tuesday, May 23. He was released under supervision and ordered to return to court on June 27.


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