WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County jury late Tuesday convicted a Pittston man of stealing $23,000 from an elderly woman by forging checks he cashed.
Mary Grace Gaughan, 81, testified she relied upon James Mulhern to cut her grass, shovel snow and drive her to doctor appointments.
In return, Mulhern, 48, of Pittston, helped himself to Gaughan’s checkbook and stole nearly $23,000, Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Jenny Roberts said.
Jurors were convinced, convicting Mulhern on two counts of forgery and a single count of theft after the one-day trial before Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr.
Sklarosky said Mulhern will be sentenced on April 24. He remains free on $5,000 unsecured bail.
Gaughan told jurors she trusted Mulhern because he is the son of her deceased best friend. She said Mulhern often helped with chores around her house and brought her food every other day.
Gaughan said she has trouble writing and had Mulhern write checks whenever she had to pay a bill and taxes.
Roberts presented 12 canceled checks to Gaughan that Pittston police say Mulhern forged and cashed at her bank, retrieving money he deposited into his bank account.
Police said Mulhern forged Gaughan’s checks from Feb. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013, in amounts of $1,000 to $2,000.
Using a magnifying glass with a light, Gaughan studied each of the 12 canceled checks from the witness stand, telling jurors she did not sign the checks.
‘“No, I did not give him permission for (Mulhern) to sign my checks,” Gaughan told jurors.
Upon questioning by Mulhern’s attorney Michael Butera, Gaughan said there were two other people who helped write her checks.
Gaughan said she is prescribed 17 medications in which Butera asked if any medications alter her memory.
“I have no memory trouble,” Gaughan replied. “I have trouble with my writing.”
Gaughan said she cashed a $15,000 certificate of deposit because she twice loaned Mulhern money in the amounts of $5,000 and $3,000 in September 2012 and early 2013. Gaughan said the $5,000 was for the Mulhern family to take a vacation to Disney World, and $3,000 to pay for his children’s school tuition.
“He did not pay me back one dime,” Gaughan said.
After the verdict was announced and jurors were escorted from the courtroom, Gaughan whispered thank you. One juror smiled and nodded his head at Gaughan.