Does power of attorney mean power to steal?

Madison Twp. Resident Guilty of Stealing from Woman 
Tracey Read
February 22, 2008
Tracey Read (
The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) 
Janice Kucera smiled Thursday as a Madison Township woman was convicted of befriending Kucera’s octogenarian mother to get power of attorney over her.

Lisa Hanusosky, 53, went on trial Tuesday in Lake County Common Pleas Court on charges of taking money and a 2002 Nissan Sentra from Lucille New, now 86.

New’s daughter said she was relieved the jury found Hanusosky guilty of two counts of theft and one count of forgery. However, Kucera said she was disappointed they acquitted her on a fourth charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle.

“My mother loved that little car,” the daughter said after the verdict.  “There was no intent for her to part with it. It was her last hold on life. She has dementia, but she still thinks she can drive.”

Shortly after meeting New in 2005, Hanusosky gained access to her money and put her in a nursing home.

Despite the fact that New had less than $20,000 to her name, Hanusosky wrote out checks on the victim’s account to cover more than $5,000 of her own expenses and had the title of New’s car transferred to her name.

However, the jury believed the defense’s theory that New wanted Hanusosky to have the car, which the defendant’s daughter has been driving.

Hanusosky, who remains free on her own recognizance, now faces anything from probation to up to 4 1/2 years in prison when she is sentenced in about a month by Judge Vincent A. Culotta.

“She didn’t take Lucille anywhere. She didn’t stop by and visit her. Her purpose was to take Lucille’s money and put it in her own pocket,” Assistant County Prosecutor Charles Cichocki said in his closing statement.

Assistant County Public Defender Aaron Schwartz argued Hanusosky did nothing legally wrong.  “The state desperately wants you to believe the power of attorney is the end all, be all. But no witnesses testified that Lisa did not have written permission to do this,” Schwartz said.

“The power of attorney is a red herring – it doesn’t matter.”  The defense attorney added that New is happy at the Cozy Acres retirement home and continues to live there.

Schwartz also accused Cichocki of doing everything he could to garner sympathy for New – including having her wheeled into the courtroom and identified at one point.

Schwartz also took offense to a witness’ testimony about New’s diminished mental capacity and how she was unable to properly care for her home when she lived in Georgia.

“This case is not about sympathy,” Schwartz said. “It’s not about Lucille’s mental condition.”

But the jury found the state proved Hanusosky did not have verbal or written permission to write the checks or transfer the title.

Cichocki urged the jurors to make an example of Hanusosky.

“The young and the old need our protection,” the prosecutor said. “Do we want our parents, our aunts, ourselves when we get older, to be taken advantage of by someone like Lisa Hanusosky?”