91-year-old lived in squalor while home health aide, daughters spent $280K of her money, cops say

A home health aide and two of her daughters face theft charges for allegedly stealing more than $280,000 from a 91-year-old woman living in a run-down apartment in Union County, authorities said Monday.

Denise Letren, 64, was hired in 2016 to provide round-the-clock care for the victim, who needed assistance in her Summit home following hip surgery, according to acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo.

Letren was paid a weekly salary of $2,500, which amounted to $130,000 a year, according to prosecutors.

Shortly after she was hired, “and on thousands of occasions thereafter, Letren made sizable unauthorized purchases on the victim’s credit cards,” Ruotolo said in a statement.

Letren, of Union Township, allegedly used the stolen money to pay for expensive meals, alcohol, repairs to her own car, furniture, airline tickets and men’s clothing, Ruotolo said.

Letren’s daughters, Carmen, 30, of Newark, and Danielle, 32, of Lake Hopatcong, “were found to have leveraged similar methods to write themselves checks and use stolen funds on purchases such as a wedding dress,” the prosecutor said.

“Meanwhile, the victim remained almost entirely homebound in a pest-infested, dilapidated apartment during this time – only leaving her residence to travel to church or medical appointments,” Ruotolo said.

Denise Letren is charged with second-degree theft, second-degree theft by deception, and third-degree neglect of an elderly person for whom she had a responsibility to care. Carmen and Danielle Letren are each charged with third-degree theft, Ruotolo said.

The Letrens were served with criminal charges on Friday and will appear in Superior Court in Union County at a later date, Ruotolo said.

Jef Henninger, an attorney for Denise Letren, said his client denies any wrongdoing and released this statement to NJ Advance Media on Monday night:

“Our client vehemently denied these charges. We attempted to show the prosecutor’s office that these charges were completely baseless and that all charges were authorized. They were not interested in our side of the story so we look forward to demonstrating to the jury that none of these allegations are true. Our client has no criminal history and is not going to start a criminal career at 64 years old.”

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Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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