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Johnstown man accused of stealing from sick, elderly aunt

By: Maria MIller

RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A Richland Township man has been arrested and accused of stealing from his 75-year-old aunt in the last few months of her life. Police are calling it a classic case of elder abuse with a twist.

Richland Township police said they're not surprised by the case. They told 6 News the defendant is a man they've arrested several times before for theft. What does surprise them this time is what he almost got away with.

Robert Vasilinda is in the Cambria County Prison facing felony theft charges after investigators said he took advantage of his sick and elderly aunt, a woman he used to live with, and used his privileges as power of attorney to steal from her up until her death. Police said he even used her identity to purchase himself a $29, 000 truck.

"He titled the vehicle, insured it, licensed it -- the whole nine yards -- and did so with that power of attorney," said Detective Thomas Keirn of the Richland Township Police Department.

Police said he did it all by forging her name without her ever being present.

Police said the truck was in his possession for nearly two weeks until Tri Star Motors in Indiana realized he was writing bogus checks for his payments.

"The car dealership was advised that there was no money on these checks and that they were bogus and at that point they made contact with him and had him bring the truck over," Keirn said.

6 News reached out to Tri Star Motors Wednesday to question how they could sell a truck to a 75-year-old woman they never even saw. The general manager said the company had no comment.

Police said it's a classic case of elder abuse, a trend they see often although not quite like this.

"This one is in particularly disturbing because of the fact that his aunt was in such dire health condition," Keirn said. "And in fact, within days of him doing this transaction, she actually passed away."

Police told 6 News the Wednesday's charges are just the first of many they plan to file against Vasilinda.

In the meantime, departments all across Cambria County continue to work together on a newly formed Elder Abuse Task Force and detectives said Vasilinda's case showcases exactly what they're trying to combat.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times