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Dementia Sufferer Falls Victim to Scam in Brighton

Randi Berkowitz, 63, and Patricia DiGiacomo, 58, both of Brighton, Massachusetts were accused of scamming an older woman suffering from dementia.

Elderly financial abuse

Photo is courtesy of www.wcvb.com

The stand accused of liquidating the 74-year-old woman’s retirement account, worth approximately $216,000.  They also “bought” her condo for $1, and opened numerous credit cards under her name.  Both Berkowitz and DiGiacomo appeared at Suffolk Superior Court on April 17, 2014 and entered pleas of NOT GUILTY. 

Puddy Cat Trust

The cat, “Puddy Cat,” from Brighton, MA, was set to inherit part of a trust fund valued at $450,000.  The cat’s owner created the fund and named Puddy Cat a heir in her will.  The cat’s owner, a 74-year-old woman suffering from progressive dementia, was befriended by her neighbors, Randi Berkowtiz and Patricia DiGiacomo.  They promised the older woman they would take care of Puddy Cat as long as he lived. 

According to Assistant District Attorney, Michele Granda, this scheme began in late 2012 when Berkowitz persuaded the elderly woman to allow her to act as a fiduciary, granting Berkowitz the authority to make financial and other decisions in the victim’s name. 

In the course of a year, Berkowitz and DiGiacomo had drained the victim’s bank account of $175,000 and made several purchases in her name, including a $27,000 Mini Cooper.  The two women even convinced the victim to “sell” her condo to them for a single dollar. 

District Attorney Daniel Conley summarized the ordeal perfectly; he told WCVB Boston “this is one of the most startling cases of elder exploitation we’ve seen in years…We believe the defendants exploited a position of trust to drain the victim’s bank account, take ownership of her home, and even buy themselves a new car with her savings.”   


Berkowitz and DiGiacomo were charged with embezzlement by a fiduciary, larceny from a person over 60, and perjury, among other offenses.  Both women pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior court at their appearance in April.  They were released on their own recognizance on the condition that they stay away from the nursing home where the alleged victim is living, and a Brookline cat hospital where Puddy Cat is being cared for.

How to Avoid Financial Abuse

This case illustrates the fact that the elderly, especially those who live alone, are easy targets for the con-artists and scammers.  Fortunately for the alleged victim, people who knew her reported their suspicions to law enforcement and the authorities were able to recover some of her savings. 

Family, friends, and community members should pay careful attention to any seniors living nearby and make sure to report any suspect activity!

If you suspect that your elderly neighbor may be a victim of financial abuse, call your designated Protective Services Agency and ask to speak with Protective Services:

You may also call the Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hot Line at 1-800-922-2275. The Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Find more information about Elder Abuse and Protective Services for Massachusetts’ seniors here.

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