MAYWOOD, Ill. (CBS) — A Melrose Park man has been charged with stealing more than $900,000 from his late aunt, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Cook County Sheriff’s police said that Chester Czernwinski, 59, gained power of attorney over his 91-year-old aunt in February 2005. She suffered from dementia and was a widower with no children.
Czernwinski controlled his aunt’s finances until she died in April 2008 and, during that time, he allegedly cashed out her stocks, life insurance and annuities, and sold her home. Police said he used the profits and money from joint bank accounts for his own benefit.
In all, Czerwinski allegedly stole more than $900,000 from the victim.
He was indicted on Thursday for financial exploitation of the elderly/disabled and two felony counts of theft. Bond was set at $500,000 on Friday.
Police began investigating Czernwinski in April 2010 after a relative expressed concerns about money missing from the victim’s estate. That relative has filed a civil lawsuit against Czernwinski.
Czernwinski had been unemployed since 1998, receiving only disability from Social Security.
He allegedly used the money he stole to buy jewelry and a $53,000 Lincoln Navigator and to pay for a vacation for eight to San Antonio and a $30,000 wedding for his son.
Police said that, over the years, other family members tried to intervene and visit the victim, but because the victim was living in his basement, Czernwinski blocked access.
Czernwinski was due back in court on April 14th in Maywood.