BENSALEM, Bucks County — A Churchville couple that stole more than $271,000 from an elderly, incapacitated woman were sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months each in prison, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release Friday.
Jane Ervin, 57, the daughter of the victim; and her husband, Albert Ferrara, 62, a retired Philadelphia police officer, pleaded guilty to felony theft charges on Jan. 5. They admitted to stealing money from Ervin’s mother over a five-year period to remodel their basement, buy personal items and gamble.
Over that period, the victim lay in a Bensalem assisted living facility, where her bills went unpaid and staff members had to dress her in donated clothing. The victim was suffering from dementia, depression and anxiety.
Ervin had power of attorney over her mother’s finances until 2015, when a judge appointed a guardian to oversee her personal and financial affairs after Oaks of Bensalem, where the victim lived, complained to the court that Ervin was neglecting her mother, not attending to her medical needs, not paying her bills and not responding to phone calls.
The victim, now 89, was moved by her court-appointed guardian to a Doylestown facility that accepts Medicaid-eligible people without financial resources. The guardian said a large balance is still owed to Oaks of Bensalem and to a Levittown pharmacy.
The defendants blamed gambling addictions and medical, family and mental health issues for their crimes. They expressed regret in court that they were unable to visit the victim because of the pending court case.
Assistant District Attorney Kathleen G. Byrne, however, noted that Jane Ervin placed a $6,000 deposit on a new BMW in 2015 and went on a Jamaican vacation while the investigation was pending.
Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr., called the thefts an aggravated case, noting the amount of money stolen from the victim’s accounts, the victim’s age, the relationship between the victim and the defendants, and the length of time that the thefts went on.
In addition to the prison time, he imposed a concurrent seven years of probation and ordered the couple to pay $271,327.67 in restitution.
He upbraided both defendants, Ferrara for committing the crimes as a retired police officer and Ervin for feigning grief, noting that she sobbed loudly in court without shedding a tear.
The case was investigated by Detective Stephen L. Clark of the Bensalem Township Police Department.