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Pen Argyl man sentenced for stealing $350,000 from elderly uncle


Lehigh County Courthouse
ALLENTOWN — After a lifetime of hard work and smart investing, Wilbur Stiles was well prepared for retirement. The 95-year-old Allentown man's home was paid off and he was determined, family members said, to remain there in his final years, surrounded by his beloved books, music and World War II memorabilia.

When his health began to fail in 2003, Stiles, who has no children, appointed his great-nephew, Scott L. Bartholomew, power of attorney.

Over the next 10 years, a Lehigh County jury found, Bartholomew, 54, of Pen Argyl, drained Stiles' bank accounts and took out multiple mortgages on Stiles' home, leaving his great-uncle deeply in debt.

On Wednesday, Judge Robert L. Steinberg sentenced Bartholomew to four to 10 years in a state prison, and ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine and $351,677 in restitution.

"This is a case of elder abuse," Steinberg said. "This case, in some degree, is a cautionary tale about who you allow to handle your finances."

A jury in October found Bartholomew guilty of felony theft, failure to make the required disposition of funds, receiving stolen property and dealing in the proceeds of an unlawful activity.

Bartholomew apologized Wednesday, telling the judge that he took good care of his uncle while stealing his money.

"I did things I shouldn't have done, I admit that," he said. "I did what I thought was right for my family. My uncle always said that what's his was mine."

Stiles is an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II and a former wildlife biologist for the U.S. Department of Interior. He's now living at the Gino Merli Veterans Center, a nursing home for vets in Scranton.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Charles F. Gallagher argued for a lengthy state prison term, noting that Stiles described his life now as "being in hell."

Gallagher read a statement from Stiles in which the elderly man said he was ashamed that his good name was now besmirched by collection agencies.

"What he's left with is a feeling of shame and frustration with himself for being so foolish and trusting," Gallagher said.

Defense attorney Ronald Creazzo asked for a sentence that would allow Bartholomew to return his job as a truck driver and stay close to his wife and stepchildren.

"He's never been in trouble before. He's not the monster people are making him out to be," Creazzo said.

"I don't portray him as a monster. I portray him as a thief. A thief who looted his uncle's assets," Steinberg replied.

The judge praised the Lehigh County Elder Abuse Task Force for pursuing the case, saying he believed elder abuse is an underreported crime.

"I think everyone fears that we're going to spend the last days of our lives penniless and living in a nursing home. That is what happened to Mr. Stiles," Steinberg said.

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Pen Argyl man sentenced for stealing $350,000 from elderly uncle


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Pen Argyl man sentenced for stealing $350,000 from elderly uncle

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