McKeesport woman pleads guilty to forgery, insurance fraud
A McKeesport woman accused of forging documents to take control of her dying neighbor's estate, bank account and end-of-life decisions has pleaded guilty to forgery, insurance fraud and other charges in return for probation.
Mary Mechelli, 56, was charged in August 2013 in connection with actions involving Margaret Dorn between 2010 and 2012. She made the plea before Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David Cashman on Wednesday.
Dorn, who lived down the street from Mechelli, died of sepsis in Select Specialty Hospital in McKeesport on May 1, 2010, at the age of 79.
An Allegheny County investigating grand jury had charged Mechelli with falsely presenting herself as having power of attorney for Dorn to health care providers, a funeral home, an insurance company and others, before and after Dorn's death.
As part of her agreement with the Allegheny County District Attorney's office, Mechelli pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of tampering with public records, unsworn falsification, insurance fraud, theft by deception, misapplication of entrusted funds and forgery.
In a second related case, Mechelli pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of insurance fraud.
District attorney's office spokesman Mike Manko said a condition of the plea agreement stipulates that Mechelli be removed as executrix of Dorn's estate. Manko said the length of Dorn's probation will be determined at her sentencing hearing July 13.
Mechelli's attorney Patrick Thomassey could not be reached for comment.
The matter came to the attention of authorities in November 2010 when a man who was renting Dorn's house from Mechelli was told by neighbors that Mechelli was not the owner of the property. The tenant said he found Dorn's checkbook and clothing in drawers and became suspicious.
Mechelli, who collected $9,400 in rent from the man before having him evicted in February 2012, presented him with a document indicating the house belonged to her. According to court records, the Scott Street property was legally owned by Dorn's late parents and the residence was never properly transferred to her.
Dorn fell down stairs in March 2010 and signed over power of attorney to Mechelli that month, the investigation found. A nurse testified that Dorn was confused when she signed the document and not legally able to give consent.
Mechelli signed a “do not resuscitate” order on April 30, 2010. Dorn died the next day.
Mechelli was accused of taking a total of $3,761.98 from Dorn's bank account while Dorn was hospitalized or after her death.
Mechelli received a $1,764 check from a life insurance policy made out in Dorn's name, according to court documents.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.