A New Jersey elder law attorney has been arrested on charges that she conspired with the owner of an in-home senior care company to prey on elderly clients and steal their life savings. The two women allegedly stole more than $2 million from at least 10 victims starting as early as 2006 and continuing through 2013.
Attorney Barbara Lieberman, 62, of Northfield, N.J., was arrested at her home on Wednesday, March 19, and was jailed with bail set at $300,000. Officials froze approximately $5 million of Lieberman’s assets, which the state will seek to use for restitution.
Lieberman, described by law enforcement officials as “a leading specialist in elder law in Atlantic County,” allegedly teamed with Jan Van Holt, 57, the owner of “A Better Choice,” a company that offered seniors “custom designed life care and legal financial planning.” New Jersey’s acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman charged that the women typically sought out senior citizens with substantial assets but with no immediate family. The pair allegedly would take control of their victims’ finances by forging a power of attorney or obtaining one under false pretenses.
Lieberman and Holt would then allegedly add their names to the victims’ bank accounts or transfer the victims’ funds into new accounts they controlled. Thereafter, according to the charges, the women siphoned off money to pay their own expenses, although a portion of the money was used to fund the victim’s continued expenses, allegedly to keep the victim unaware of the thefts. It is alleged that, in some cases, money from one victim would be transferred to another victim to pay expenses and cover up the thefts. Lieberman allegedly used stolen funds to pay off six-figure credit card debts. Nine of the 10 alleged victims have died, Hoffman said.
In one case, Lieberman and Van Holt allegedly took out a $195,000 reverse mortgage on a 94-year-old woman’s home. That victim died in a nursing home because she could not afford the payments after her assets allegedly were stolen. Lieberman and Van Holt also executed the wills of some of the victims and allegedly continued to steal from their estates after they died.
“We allege that these defendants were wolves in sheep’s clothing, entering the lives of their vulnerable victims as caregivers, only to shamelessly steal all they owned,” said Elie Honig, Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. “It is particularly egregious that Lieberman, a lawyer, and Van Holt, a former social worker, both of whom had careers ostensibly dedicated to helping the elderly, instead would choose to harm them.”
Van Holt was arrested and jailed along with Lieberman. Two others, Van Holt’s sister and a former employee who worked for them as an aide to elderly clients, were also arrested and charged in the case.
According to a local news report, a man identifying himself as Van Holt's son blamed Lieberman for his mother's incarceration, saying his mother was only paid for her services to Lieberman.
Law enforcement officials said that the charges will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment. Officials said the investigation is ongoing and encouraged anyone with additional information to contact them at 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.
For coverage of the case by ABA Journal, with links to local coverage, click here.
Updated local coverage:
"Niece's persistence ignited elder-fraud investigation"
"Atlantic County surrogate reviewing court files after guardian accused of stealing millions"