|Lieberman & Van Holt|
Barbara Lieberman, 62, and Jan Van Holt, 57, of Linwood, were arrested Wednesday for taking more than $2.4 million from 10 victims beginning in 2006, acting Attorney General John Hoffman said. Nine of the victims — all from Atlantic County and in their 80s or 90s — have died. A Cape May Court House woman who allegedly had $20,000 taken from her is now 88 years old.
Two other women are charged with helping the enterprise, including Van Holt’s sister, Sondra Steen, 58, of Linwood. The fourth woman, Susan Hamlett, was the one who sparked the investigation, said her attorney, Stephen Funk.
“It is, therefore, somewhat baffling that she is included in this indictment,” he said. “She is a conscientious employee, not a criminal.”
Hamlett worked for Van Holt’s A Better Choice, an in-home senior service that offered nonmedical help to seniors, including legal and financial planning.
Van Holt and Lieberman allegedly referred clients to one another, targeting seniors with substantial assets and no immediate family.
Van Holt even used her former position with Atlantic County Adult Protective Services, which she left in 2006, to find at least one victim, according to the charges. A 94-year-old died in a nursing home because she could no longer afford the payments on her Ventnor home after Steen allegedly took out a $195,000 reverse mortgage, claiming to be the woman’s niece.
“These defendants were wolves in sheep’s clothing,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “(They entered) the lives of their vulnerable victims as caregivers, only to shamelessly steal all they owned.
Lieberman — a leading specialist in elder law in Atlantic County — met one of her alleged victims while giving a legal seminar to seniors at Atlantic City’s Jeffries Tower, where the woman lived. The woman lost $320,000 after hiring Van Holt, who then got power of attorney and was named executrix of the woman’s will. She continued to be robbed even after her death in an Atlantic City nursing home, according to the charges.
Lieberman would prepare powers of attorney and draft wills for the victims, giving herself or one of the other defendants power of attorney in some cases, according to the charges. She even transferred some of the victims’ money into her Interest on Lawyers Trust Account — which is supposed to be maintained as a safeguard for funds entrusted to lawyers. Checks from that account were allegedly then cut to Lieberman or one of the other defendants.
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Women from Northfield, Linwood accused of stealing assets of elderly