Nephew Stole Nearly $1M from Aunt: Cops

Woman suffered from Alzheimer's, dementia, officials say

Saturday, Apr 9, 2011  |  Updated 12:34 PM CDT
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Nephew Stole Nearly $1M from Aunt: Cops

Chester Czernwinski

Blood may be thicker than water, but that apparently wasn't enough to prevent one man from stealing from a family member in order to buy a new car and a take a vacation with several of his friends.

Chester Czernwinski, 59, of the 2700 block of Geneva, "methodically drained" more than $900,000 from his elderly aunt who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, authorities said this week.

Czernwinski was indicted Thursday for financial exploitation of the elderly/disabled, as well as two felony counts of theft over $100,000.

He stole the money after first gaining power of attorney six years ago, when the woman was 91 years old, officials said.  Czernwinski's aunt suffered from dementia and was a widower with no children.

She ended up living with Czernwinski and he controlled her finances until she died in April 2008.

During that time, Czernwinski cashed out the woman's stocks, life insurance, annuities and solder her Broadview home, using the profits and money from joint bank accounts for his personal benefit, officials said.

The Cook County Sheriff's Police Financial Crimes Unit began investigating Czernwinski in April 2010 after a relative expressed concerns about money missing from the woman's estate.

The relative filed a civil lawsuit against Czernwinski alleging he had "methodically drained" the woman's assets while having power of attorney, the release said.

As part of the investigation, Sheriff's Police detectives conducted interviews, subpoenaed bank records and depositions from the civil suit.

Czernwinski had been unemployed since 1998, receiving only disability from Social Security.

Investigators learned Czernwinski cashed checks from the victim's accounts for his personal use, ranging from a couple hundred dollars to $166,000, the release said.

He also used his aunt's money to pay for a $53,000 Lincoln Navigator, a vacation for eight to San Antonio, Texas, jewelry and a $30,000 wedding for his son, among other items, the release said.

Over the years, suspicious family members tried to intervene and visit the woman, but Czernwinski blocked access, housing his aunt in the basement of his house until she was placed in a nursing home, the release said.

Czernwinski appeared in Maywood bond court on Friday and is scheduled for an April 14 preliminary hearing, the release said.

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