A Pennsylvania grand jury on Monday indicted two Northeast residents among four men, alleging that they employed an in-home benefits scam to steal more than $700,000 from hundreds of senior citizens across Pennsylvania and beyond.
Attorney General Linda Kelly announced felony charges against Bruce Howard Cherry, 52, of the 10100 block of Dedaker Drive in Somerton; Robert P. Lerner, 56, of the 900 block of Emerson St. in Fox Chase; and two codefendants.
Investigators identified 218 victims from 41 Pennsylvania counties, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Individual victims were deceived into spending thousands of dollars for “home care” or “home security” services that purportedly would assist them in their ongoing personal care.
The defendants allegedly collected payments from victims but delivered little of the services promised.
Ross M. Rabelow, 52, of Southampton, Bucks County, and Thomas J. Muldoon, 57, of Broomall, Delaware County, also are charged in the case.
“This was a disturbing and despicable scheme designed to extract as much money as possible from unwitting seniors who believed they were protecting themselves against costly future home-care expenses,” Kelly said.
All four defendants have been arrested. The prosecutor did not release details of the arrests or the defendants’ custody status. A trial date has not been set.
Many victims were widowed, living alone and without nearby family, Kelly said. Their average age was about 83 years old. Agents from the attorney general’s Insurance Fraud Section and Elder Abuse Unit called the investigation “Operation False Comfort.”
Rabelow allegedly owned a business, American Comfort Home Care Services, and employed Cherry as its primary salesman. The business claimed to provide non-medical home care to the elderly.
Muldoon allegedly operated Global Services, a business that purportedly provided home safety equipment and “health advocacy” services to seniors. Lerner allegedly represented Global in its dealings with victims.
Cherry allegedly identified himself as proprietor of Cherry Senior Solutions, a business that supposedly provided “expert” counseling to seniors regarding long-term healthcare and other insurance-related needs.
The defendants often worked as a team and shared information about victims, according to the prosecutor.
Victims typically were charged $1,590 in advance per 1,000 hours of in-home services. Also, defendants allegedly collected legitimate health insurance premium payments from victims, but failed to remit those payments to the insurance carriers. Instead, the defendants pocketed the money.
Cherry, Muldoon and Lerner allegedly stole blank checks from at least one victim. Nine of the checks were later forged and cashed with the payments going directly to those three defendants.
Cherry, Rabelow and Muldoon each are charged with participating in a corrupt organization and conspiracy, along with 218 counts each of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, theft by deception, insurance fraud and deceptive business practices.
Lerner is charged with three counts each of theft by deception and insurance fraud, along with failure to make required disposition of funds, conspiracy, forgery and theft by receiving stolen property. ••EndFragment