Former Resident Of Hudson County, N.J., Admits Defrauding Hospitalized, Elderly Widow
CAMDEN, N.J. – A former Hudson County, N.J., resident admitted today that he defrauded an elderly woman of approximately $279,000 while she was hospitalized for cancer treatment, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ralph Cozzino, 43, of North Bergen, N.J., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to Count One of the Indictment charging him with mail fraud.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Cozzino admitted to stealing stock certificates from the elderly victim’s apartment. Cozzino then presented the stolen stock certificates to the victim’s stock transfer agent, along with a fraudulent power of attorney bearing the victim’s name, address, Social Security number and forged signature, which purported to grant him control over the victim’s financial affairs, including the power to redeem and/or sell stock.
Cozzino instructed the stock transfer agent to transfer ownership of the stolen stocks into Cozzino’s name and to liquidate certain shares of stock for his benefit. Cozzino caused the stock transfer agent to send him the proceeds of the liquidated shares, which he deposited into bank accounts that he controlled and spent the funds on various personal expenditures, including a 2006 Nissan, Lasik eye surgery, as well as a down payment, closing costs, and furniture for a new house. From April 2006 until October 2007, Cozzino liquidated, and converted to his own use, approximately $279,000 in stolen shares belonging to the victim.
The mail fraud count to which Cozzino pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 14, 2013.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge of the Newark Division Maria Kelokates, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The Government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirley U. Emehelu of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: J. Michael Farrell Esq., Wenonah, N.J.