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July 15, 10

NEWS / Fugitive Captured in Florida and Arraigned on Charges that She and Second Woman Stole $164,900 from


Alleged con artists feigned romance with widower to gain his trust

TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a fugitive, captured in Florida after being sought by the Division of Criminal Justice for three years, was arraigned in court today in Newark on charges that she and another woman conned an elderly West Orange man out of approximately $164,900 by feigning romantic attachment to him and pretending they needed loans for fictitious business ventures.

According to Director Taylor, Brenda Miguel, 48, a.k.a. “Girl Z,” who formerly lived in Newark, was arraigned by Superior Court Judge Michael A. Petrolle on charges of conspiracy, theft by deception and money laundering, all in the second degree. She was charged in a June 20, 2007 state grand jury indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice. The indictment also charged Susan Frank, 46, a.k.a. “Chicken,” formerly of Elizabeth, who remains a fugitive and whose last known location was Texas. The women allegedly belong to a group of transient con artists who prey on the elderly.

Judge Petrolle today increased bail for Miguel from $500,000 to $1 million, cash only, at the request of Deputy Attorney General Francine Ehrenberg of the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau, who is prosecuting the case. Miguel is lodged in the Essex County Jail.

Miguel was arrested on May 6 in Orlando, Fla., by Agent John F. McMahon of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations and Investigations Division. The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice had enlisted the aid of experts and law enforcement authorities in bunco squads across the U.S. in a nationwide search for Miguel. Retired Detective Sgt. Jon Grow of the Baltimore Police Department, who is Executive Director of the National Association of Bunco Investigators, provided extensive assistance in those efforts. Miguel was returned to New Jersey on June 28 by the U.S. Marshals Service and turned over to Lt. James MacInnes and Detective Cheryl Smith of the Division of Criminal Justice. Susan Meier, Extradition Secretary for the Division of Criminal Justice, assisted in the efforts to return Miguel to New Jersey.

The indictment alleges that between Aug. 20, 2003 and Oct. 19, 2004, Miguel and Frank stole money from the man, who is now 89, by tricking him into believing he was making business loans that would be repaid. They allegedly engaged in what is known as a “sweetheart scam” by showing false affection for the elderly man to encourage him to make the loans. The women allegedly used the funds for personal expenses and have not repaid any money.

Miguel introduced herself to the victim, a retired financial adviser, at a diner in Linden in July 2003. Miguel, who used the alias Theresa Pachino, allegedly told the victim she was a hotel designer and remodeler who needed financing to complete a project. She allegedly gave him a business card with a false address in the Bronx, N.Y. Miguel saw the victim on a number of occasions, and he allegedly provided her with cash and checks totaling about $104,900 for her purported business.

In 2004, Miguel introduced the victim to Frank, who used the alias Paulina Johns. Frank allegedly claimed to need funding for a national cleaning business she inherited. In October 2004, the victim allegedly provided Frank with three checks totaling $60,000.

Under state law, second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The investigation was conducted and coordinated by Lt. James MacInnes and Deputy Attorney General Ehrenberg. Deputy Attorney General Ehrenberg presented the case to the grand jury.

Members of the public who have information about the activities of Miguel and Frank or the whereabouts of Frank can contact the Division of Criminal Justice Tipline at 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice Web page at www.njdcj.org to report information. All information received through the Division of Criminal Justice Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20100714b.html

 




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