Sheila Grochowski, 70, gained access to the victims’ bank accounts through her employment with Barbara H. Hance Associates, a firm appointed by probate courts to handle the financial affairs of people under conservatorships.
According to the warrant for Grochowski’s arrest, she forged the signature of the firm’s owner, Barbara Hance, on 591 checks and two withdrawal slips and stole $851,811 between January 2010 and May 2016, when Hance fired Grochowski.
Hance could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
Authorities do not know where the money went, but when confronted by Hance in early 2015 about the embezzlement of $4,829, Grochowski admitted the forgery and said she needed the money for medical expenses, according to the warrant for Grochowski’s arrest.
After that incident, Hance kept Grochowski as an employee, set up a repayment plan and did not notify police.
In May 2016 more problems with checks were found, and Hance determined that Grochowski’s alleged thefts were more extensive. A forensic audit by an accounting firm, and a review of thousands of pages of Grochowski’s bank records by Avon Det. Edward Espinoza and state Inspector Jack Bannan revealed the extent of Grochowski’s alleged thefts.
The investigators identified 25 people they say were victimized by Grochowski, including her own father who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was under a conservatorship. Grochowski allegedly wrote herself checks from her father’s accounts and listed herself as executor of his estate, although he was still alive.
The investigators also found that in 1988 Grochowski was charged by Torrington police with first-degree larceny, second-degree larceny and third-degree forgery. She was convicted in November 1989 and sentenced to five years in prison.
In signing the warrant for Grochowski’s arrest, Hartford Superior Court Judge Laura F. Baldini set bail at $750,000. At Grochowski’s arraignment Monday in Hartford, Judge Tammy Nguyen-O’Dowd released Grochowski on a promise to appear in court.
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Woman Accused Of Stealing $851,000 From Elderly, Disabled