UNION COUNTY, NJ – A home health aide from Union and two of her daughters have been charged with stealing over $280,000 from an elderly Summit woman the aide was hired to care for, said Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo.
Denise Letren, 64, of Union is charged with second-degree theft, second-degree theft by deception, and third-degree neglect of an elderly person for whom she had a responsibility to care. Thirty-year-old Carmen Letren of Newark and 32-year-old Danielle Letren of Lake Hopatcong are each charged with third-degree theft.
An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit revealed that the 91-year-old victim found that she needed home health services following hip surgery that took place approximately six years ago, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Cronin, who is prosecuting the case.
Denise Letren was hired to care for the victim at her home around the clock, earning a weekly salary of $2,500 ($130,000 annually), Cronin said. Yet the investigation, leveraging an exhaustive review of personal financial records and multiple interviews, showed that starting in 2016 and on thousands of occasions thereafter, Letren made sizeable unauthorized purchases on the victim’s credit cards.
Letren allegedly used the stolen funds to purchase items and services such as expensive meals, large purchases of alcohol, repairs to her Lexus, furniture, airline tickets, and men’s clothing, among numerous others. Carmen and Danielle Letren were found to have leveraged similar methods to write themselves checks and use stolen funds on purchases such as a wedding dress. Meanwhile, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, the victim remained almost entirely homebound in a pest-infested, dilapidated apartment during this time – only leaving her residence to travel to church or medical appointments.
The three defendants were served the charges against them on Friday, pending first appearances to take place in Union County Superior Court.
“Elder abuse is an insidious crime that takes many forms, and it is far more prevalent than one may think -- the National Council on Aging estimates that one in 10 Americans of age 60 or older have experienced it, and of the estimated 5 million cases that occur in the U.S. each year, as few as 1 of every 14 are actually reported to authorities,” Prosecutor Ruotolo said. “I commend the excellent investigative work on this case by A.P. Cronin, Det. Luongo, and members of our Special Prosecutions Unit, who are dedicated to serving the interests of justice on behalf of often marginalized victims.”
Convictions on second-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years in state prison, while third-degree crimes can result in terms of 3 to 5 years.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.