Man accused of stealing aging aunt's life savings

A 50-year-old Massachusetts man appeared in New London Superior Court Wednesday on charges he embezzled more than $350,000 from his elderly aunt after convincing her to give him power of attorney over her affairs.

William J. Nash of Ashfield, Mass., pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree larceny and second-degree larceny. Arrested in July following an investigation by Norwich police and the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, Nash is free on a $75,000 bond. He is represented by Hartford attorney Hubert J. Santos and is due back in court in October.

The alleged victim, 90-year-old Theresa Nash, lived at 200 Newent Road in Lisbon for 38 years, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The document indicates she worked as a nurse and had once been a Catholic nun. She now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a sister.

William Nash, listed as "self-employed" in an arrest report, has publicly identified himself as a victim of priest abuse. He received an out-of-court settlement of $75,000 after being molested in the 1980s while studying to be a priest at a seminary run by the Xaverian religious order in Wisconsin. He later embarked on a campaign to have the accused priest defrocked and served as a spokesman for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

His attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to the affidavit, the alleged victim was 87 and suffering from Parkinson's disease when she gave her nephew power of attorney in 2011. Theresa Nash told investigators she no longer felt safe in her home and recognized she needed help with her finances. She said Nash offered to help her, and she reasoned that since he is a single man, she wouldn't be taking him away from his family, and she could trust him because he was "family."

William Nash asked his aunt to close all her bank accounts and transfer her money into her account at the Connecticut State Employees Credit Union, where he said it would collect higher interest, according to the affidavit. She agreed but kept one account open at Dime Bank. Nash arranged to sell the house on Newent Road and moved his aunt into St. Jude Common, an assisted living facility in Norwich. When she had a problem getting around at night, Nash arranged to have someone sit with her for a few hours, but the aunt reported she wasn't comfortable and asked to leave the facility.

Nash assured his aunt he would not place her in a nursing home and took her to his home in western Massachusetts, according to the affidavit. But she said that on the second night, he took her to an emergency room, saying she had fainted, and had her admitted to a rehabilitation unit, telling her she was a "very sick woman" in need of constant care. She said the doctors found nothing wrong with her and that she contacted her sisters and signed herself out.

Theresa Nash discovered in April 2012 that her nephew had listed himself as a joint holder of her bank accounts and had withdrawn $213,813 from the credit union, leaving a balance of just $4,000, and had drained her Dime Savings Bank account of nearly $76,000. She told investigators she had signed documents that were put before her because she trusted Nash. She said Nash also had her make out a will that appointed him as executor and named him as a beneficiary.

The investigation showed that Nash wrote checks totaling $16,468 from his aunt's account to pay for work on his home and car, firewood, new furniture and other personal expenses. Other transactions occurred via ATM withdrawals and cashier's checks, according to the warrant.

Nash incurred what his aunt described as a "legitimate expense" when, at her request, he paid $9,515 to a funeral home to cover her final expenses, according to the affidavit. Confronted by police in December 2012 with a Massachusetts attorney present, Nash said he cared greatly for his aunt and had used the money to take care of her to the best of his ability. After further questions, the attorney interjected and told police that Nash could spend the funds any way he desired and was under no obligation to explain.

According to the state, Nash has refused to return to his aunt some of her personal belongings, including her birth certificate, marriage certificate, husband's death certificate, deed to her burial plot, photos and school yearbook.

k.florin@theday.com
Twitter: @KFLORIN

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