Authorities in Lehigh County accuse a caregiver of tapping into a line of credit and stealing about $140,000 from the person for whom she was caring to pay her cable bills, car insurance, vehicle fines and to purchase items like a big-screen TV.
Pennsylvania State Police charged Karyssa Miller, of North Main Street in Alburtis, with theft, forgery, receiving stolen property and access device fraud, all felonies. District Judge Rashid Santiago arraigned the 23-year-old Tuesday night, setting bail at $20,000.
State police with the Fogelsville barracks were notified in May to investigate claims by a Lower Macungie Township man that someone had been stealing from his Wells Fargo account. He told authorities that he had hired Sara Care, a home healthcare company, to assist him with day-to-day activities, according to court records.
Aside from his daughter, Miller, who was employed by Sara Care, was the only person with whom the victim had almost daily contact. And he had provided her on a few occasions with a credit card to purchase household items like food and medications, according to records.
A review of the man’s financial records quickly turned up a few red flags for investigators, including Walmart purchases of $332 and $318 that included $100 cash back each time. Police found $206 and $120 RCN payments despite the victim being a Service Electric customer for years.
RCN’s fraud department confirmed for investigators that Miller was an RCN customer, and that the company received at least two payments with a Wells Fargo card. And Miller was allegedly spotted on Walmart surveillance video making purchases and cash advances with the victim’s card.
During a May interview with a state police investigator, Miller initially denied any involvement in the thefts, telling authorities she was allowed to make personal purchases with the victim’s card and occasionally receive cash back as a “tip” for her services.
But her story began to change as the interview progressed with an emotional Miller allegedly telling authorities she was never authorized to use the victim’s credit card for own purchases. She couldn’t say how many times she used his card or how much she stole, but she lowballed the number at about $25,000, according to police.
The first unauthorized transaction happened in January 2015, and Miller allegedly made more than 400 such transactions, including transferring on several occasions $2,500 from the victim’s home equity line of credit into her checking account. She allegedly hid online account activity from the victim and his power-of-attorney by granting herself access to the line of credit via a Wells Fargo ATM.
Investigators found Amazon purchases, ATM withdraws, car insurance and car loan payments, Pay Pal purchases, gas, food and Apple electronics purchases, cable bills and internet subscriptions. It all totaled $140,047.
Miller is free ahead of a preliminary hearing tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18 after posting bail on Wednesday.