Monday, March 30, 2015
Bensalem police: Bristol Township mom, son stole from 89-year-old
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The worst thing that happened to her last year wasn’t her stroke, 89-year-old Priscilla Somerville said. It was the day she walked into her bank and found out her accounts were empty.
“I didn’t have enough to buy a candy bar. I really didn’t have any money,” the Bensalem woman said Wednesday. “I almost went ballistic.”
Bensalem police allege that it was Somerville’s longtime friend and the woman’s 40-year-old son who emptied her bank accounts of nearly $39,000 while she was recovering from the stroke.
Joyce Morelli, 67, a dental nurse for the Bristol Borough School District, and Carmen Morelli Jr., 40, both Bristol Township residents, were charged Wednesday with felony theft, access device crime and conspiracy.
Somerville, a widow, reported the theft in December, after she returned home from a rehabilitation facility where she went after being hospitalized for the stroke in August.
During her hospitalization and rehab, Somerville gave Joyce Morelli, whom she knew for more than 40 years, conditional power of attorney to handle Somerville’s finances.
In addition to her Bensalem home, Somerville said she has three rental properties in Philadelphia as well as a stock portfolio. In her will, which was prepared a month before her stroke, Somerville named Morelli her estate executrix and gave her durable health care power of attorney, according to court documents.
While Somerville was recovering, Bensalem police allege, Joyce Morelli wrote out nine checks on Somerville’s accounts for $38,609 to her son Carmen Jr. and her husband, Carmen Sr.
Somerville on Wednesday said she found out that her checking and savings accounts had been emptied when she went to the bank to get money to pay caregivers hired to help her at home.
“There was no money — at all,” she said, adding that she had to sign for a $100,000 line of credit that she found out Morelli had opened in her name — and now pay interest — in order to pay her bills.
Bensalem Detective Stephen Clark, who handled the investigation, spoke with two of Somerville’s tenants — both longtime renters, after being told by the Morellis that the money was used to pay for labor and materials for roofs on the rental properties. One tenant claimed that Carmen attempted to replace the roof during the summer, but after six weeks of repair work he failed to complete the job, and the leak upstairs continued.
Another tenant said that Carmen claimed he was the general contractor for the property and handled all repairs. He also told the tenant not to call Somerville with concerns because “she was a sick old lady,” the affidavit notes. The resident also claimed roof repairs were started in September but “Carmen didn’t know what he was doing,” police said.
Somerville’s accountant later hired another contractor to finish the roofing work at an additional cost of $5,000. That licensed contractor said a new roof wasn’t installed on the one property, but the old roof had been sealed with a silver material and problems still existed.
The roofer also told police that the average cost to remove and replace the roof is about $6,200, court documents said.
Clark said he interviewed Joyce Morelli. Morelli said she didn’t know the name of her son’s contracting business, though she claimed he was licensed in Pennsylvania, a requirement. She also claimed that she didn’t ask her son to provide any invoices or receipts because “she trusted him,” the affidavit said.
Carmen Morelli Jr. also didn’t produce any of the documentation at the request of police, and couldn’t explain why he was paid so much and didn’t finish the jobs, court documents show. He said that because he was $16,000 in arrears for child support, his mother wrote some checks to his father, who then gave him the cash, police allege.
The Morellis were each arraigned before District Judge Leonard Brown Wednesday and released on $100,000 unsecured bail.
Joyce Morelli also has been removed as Sommerville’s conditional and durable health care power of attorney and taken out of her will, according to police.