BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — Gina Wright not only stole her great-aunt’s jewelry, money and her sense of security, a judge said yesterday.
Wright, 28, also “probably destroyed” the relationship between the elderly woman and Wright’s mother and grandmother, Judge Michael Lauranzano told Wright yesterday.
“There’s nothing worse than what you did,” said the Salem District Court judge during a hearing yesterday in which Wright pleaded guilty to larceny, forgery and theft charges and was sentenced to two years of probation.
Her friend, Holly Szczechowicz, 21, admitted to cashing forged checks and pawning some of the victim’s jewelry. Her charges were continued without a finding for two years and will be dismissed if she stays out of further trouble.
Click here for tips on avoiding elder fraud from the state Attorney General's Office
Wright, who is also known by her maiden name, Mazzetti, of 20 Jordan St., Beverly, was hired last summer as a home health aide for the then-82-year-old Salem woman, on the recommendation of Wright’s grandmother.
“Her grandmother had told me what a good person she was,” said the victim yesterday during an impact statement in court. “That’s why I hired her.”
“It worked only for a few weeks, till I found out things were missing,” the woman added.
Her jewelry box had been looted, just a coin left, when she looked inside last August.
“She fleeced me blind,” said the woman, who is now 83.
Prosecutor Alex Grimes suggested jail time for Wright, who was awaiting trial in a heroin case when she was charged last September and who is also on probation in an unrelated case. The drug charges were later dropped after her attorney argued that she hadn’t been given her Miranda warning.
“She had this woman’s trust, and she used it to steal from her,” Grimes argued.
Wright had her friend, Szczechowicz, of 344 Essex St., Salem, sell the items she had “plundered” from the victim, Grimes said.
It’s a story often told by families of drug addicts, as Wright and Szczechowicz say they are. Items go missing, stolen and pawned or sold for quick cash to feed a habit.
During their arrests in September, police found Suboxone pills on both women. They admitted yesterday to charges stemming from that discovery, as well.
But in this case, the woman was paying Wright to help her with the tasks of day-to-day living.
According to a police report, Wright altered one check the woman had written to her, turning a $15 check into $250.
Both Wright and Szczechowicz admitted cashing stolen checks on which they had forged the woman’s signature. Wright also admitted taking an unknown amount of cash.
Police found some of the stolen jewelry at a Salem shop and recovered it for the woman. Then, a few days after the woman spoke to police, someone anonymously left a box containing some of the woman’s other missing jewelry at her door.
Both Wright and Szczechowicz agreed to pay $900 each in restitution.
Szczechowicz has been taking part in drug treatment and has returned to her mother’s home, lawyer Steve Reardon said. “She was in the throes of drug addiction” and under the influence of the older Wright, he said.
Defense lawyer Scott Masse blamed the addiction on Wright’s estranged husband and said the couple are now divorcing.
Wright is also in treatment, has been clean for months now and is working, Masse said.
Lauranzano asked what kind of job she has.
Masse told the judge that Wright is still working as a home health aide.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.