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SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) – A Delaware County woman has been charged with stealing more than $337,000 from her 78-year-old mother, who is non-verbal. Authorities say 52-year-old Bernadette Branson-Lawler stole a total of $337,715.61 from her mother after selling her mother’s house in Springfield Township and moving her to an assisted living facility in 2013.
“It’s a pretty horrendous case,” said Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M Copeland. “Writing checks to herself. Spending to pay for her PECO bill to phone bill to enhance her business as part of a home design business, for therapy, for anything that helped her for her on personal gain. It’s a sad case. It’s a very sad case.”
An investigation was launched after Branson-Lawler failed to submit the required guardian paperwork. That’s when a court-appointed attorney reviewed the victim’s financial records and discovered suspicious withdrawals made by Branson-Lawler.
Branson-Lawler admitted to withdrawing money from her mother’s accounts for personal expenses, such as her interior design business, her electric bill, insurance bill, cell phone, gym membership, in addition to writing herself checks.
After the death of her mother’s husband in 2009, she appointed Branson-Lawler as her agent under power-of-attorney.
In 2013, Branson-Lawler petitioned and was appointed by the Delaware County Orphans Court to become the sole guardian for her mother due to her diminished mental capacity.
In 2017, Branson-Lawler failed to file an annual expense report to the court as guardian of her mother.
The DA says when questioned, Branson-Lawler admitted that she withdrew money from her mother’s account for personal expenses.
Her mother now has a court-appointed attorney.
Branson-Lawler was charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and false impression and receiving stolen property.
“It speaks volumes about somebody’s character that they would do something like this to their own mother,” said Copeland.
If you suspect a senior resident is being financially victimized, please contact the Senior Exploitation Unit at 610-891-5249 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.