Defendant pleads innocent in elderly ripoff


By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOuNGSTOWN

A Boardman woman charged with stealing $150,000 or more in cash, bonds and jewelry from an elderly Canfield woman entered a written plea of innocent and waived her personal appearance at her arraignment in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Linda J. Kovachik, 69, of Flagler Lane, was scheduled for arraignment today on a theft charge and four counts of forgery contained in an Aug. 19 county grand jury indictment.

She remains free on $35,000 bond.

The written innocent plea and waiver of appearance was signed by Kovachik and her lawyer, Samuel G. Amendolara.

Kovachik was an aide to U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who died in September 2014 after an accident at his Green Township farm.

The theft charge against Kovachik covers the period from Oct. 7, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2015.

The forgery counts against her pertain to Chase Bank checks dated Sept. 20, 2013, May 19 and 30 and June 6, 2014.

In 2013, Kovachik befriended the 79-year-old Canfield woman, who was a church acquaintance, and offered to help manage her finances, police said.

Kovachik cashed 93 of the Canfield woman’s savings bonds and withdrew an additional $65,000 from her bank account, most of which supported what Kovachik said was her gambling addiction, said Detective Brian McGivern of the Canfield Police Department.

The defendant also admitted taking and selling the victim’s diamond wedding ring, police said.

Earlier this month, the Canfield woman sued Kovachik and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, saying the bank failed to investigate or notify law enforcement after being advised of suspicious activity, and thereby negligently failed to halt the theft of the Canfield woman’s assets.

The civil complaint, filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, seeks at least $150,000 in damages and requests a jury trial on behalf of the victim, who, the suit says, has diminished mental capacity.

On Oct. 1, 2013, Kovachik obtained financial power of attorney over the Canfield woman, who, the suit said, was unable to handle her finances.

In December 2013, Kovachik and the Canfield woman entered Chase Bank’s Canfield branch and visited the 79-year-old’s safe-deposit box, with Kovachik seeking to cash between $20,000 and $30,000 in U.S. savings bonds, according to the civil complaint.

A private client banker confronted them and told the 79-year-old she should get a bank loan, instead of cashing in the bonds, then told the bank’s corporate security department she believed Kovachik was taking advantage of the 79-year-old, the complaint said.

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