Estate theft charges draw challenge as family feud
An attorney for a West Virginia woman accused of theft in a $677,216 estate dispute contends the case should never have been elevated to a criminal offense.
“This is pretty much a family feud that's a civil matter,” attorney David Kaiser of Uniontown said during a preliminary hearing Wednesday for his client, Marlene Wesolowsky.
North Union District Judge Wendy Dennis ordered Wesolowsky, 48, of 8 Meadow Brooke Drive, Morgantown, W.Va., held for court on a charge of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received.
In a criminal complaint, Trooper John Marshall alleges that Wesolowsky, while serving as executrix for the estate of her mother, Rosemary A. Mehall, failed to share the estate's proceeds with her five brothers and sisters.
Rosemary Mehall died in January 2004. The complaint lists $677,216 in missing estate funds.
One of Wesolowsky's sisters, Ralene Debord of Wexford, on Wednesday testified a portion of the missing money was deposited into a joint checking account. The account, she testified, was shared between her mother and Wesolowsky.
Wesolowsky had control of the joint account after her mother's death, Debord testified. Wesolowsky opened a separate estate account after her mother died, but she continued to deposit checks bearing her mother's name into the joint account, Debord said.
Debord testified the checks totaled $2,781. Many were refund checks issued to her mother after her death for amounts as little as $2, Debord said. Some bore the signature of her deceased mother. Others, she testified, had her late father's signature on them.
“These checks were signed in the deceased people's names, deposited directly into (Wesolowsky's) account,” Debord testified.
Debord testified other unaccounted-for money is from savings bonds and certificates of deposit valued at approximately $150,000. She acknowledged she has no direct evidence Wesolowsky had the bonds, but testified the Treasury Department will not reissue them without Wesolowsky's signature “because she was the last person known to have them.”
Kaiser produced financial documents showing at least some of the certificates of deposit were converted into Wesolowsky's name. In addition, he noted the approximately $150,000 that Debord testified is missing is far less than the $677,216 listed in the criminal complaint.
Assistant District Attorney Michelle Kelley asked Dennis to hold the charge for court because regardless of the amount, estate assets were not deposited into the estate account.
“It's clear, by the testimony, the defendant didn't deposit estate assets into the estate account,” Kelley said. “The estate assets went into the personal account of the defendant.”
Wesolowsky is scheduled for a formal arraignment March 21 before President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. She is free on $25,000 unsecured bond.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.