On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 06-05-0893.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 3, 2010
Before Judges Wefing, Messano and LeWinn.
Defendant's neighbor, Clifford, had two adult mentally handicapped children, Karen and Joey. Clifford died in October 2002, leaving a substantial estate to his children in two trusts. Defendant offered to care for Karen and Joey. She arranged for Joey to live in an assisted living facility, and had Karen move in with her. The executor of Clifford's estate, Robert Giunco, used money from the trusts to pay for the expenses of Karen and Joey, including compensation to defendant for "home . . . [and] companion expenses," as well as a monthly stipend to Karen.
In or about May 2003, concerned about the manner in which Giunco was disbursing trust funds, defendant met with an attorney, Celeste Miller; as a result of that meeting, Karen and Joey executed powers-of-attorney in favor of defendant. Giunco became concerned when he learned of the powers-of-attorney because he maintained that Karen and Joey should have been psychologically examined as to their mental status before executing those documents.
In or about May 2004, Giunco arranged for an attorney, Lynn Staufenberg, to be appointed guardian ad litem for Karen and Joey, to investigate defendant's expenditures. Psychiatric evaluations of Karen and Joey were conducted in September 2004, and resulted in findings that they were both "incapacitated and in need of a guardian." On October 15, 2004, Staufenberg was appointed guardian of the person and property for Karen and Joey.
Staufenberg investigated defendant's use of the trust funds. As a result of that investigation, Staufenberg contacted the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. Detective Maria Larangeira of that office conducted an investigation and concluded that defendant had improperly taken over $100,000 of Karen's and Joey's trust funds. Larangeira's investigation further revealed a loan application, purportedly signed by Karen for $21,564 for the purchase of a truck in North Carolina through the Coastal Federal Credit Union (Coastal Federal). The loan documents listed a Wilmington, North Carolina home address for Karen and her employment status as "an assistant manager" at Capital Cellular. The investigation also revealed that defendant had obtained a Capital One credit card in Karen's name by applying for that card on-line.
Defendant was indicted on ten counts: second-degree theft by deception, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4; two counts of third-degree theft by deception, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4; two counts of fourth-degree uttering a forged instrument, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1(a); fourth-degree making false statements to procure a credit card, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-6(b); third-degree fraudulent use of a credit card, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-6(h); two counts of fourth-degree forgery, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1(a)(2); and third-degree criminal impersonation, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17(a)(1).
Tried to a jury in March 2008, defendant was acquitted on six counts; the jury did not reach a verdict on two other counts and they were subsequently dismissed by the State. Defendant was convicted on counts four and five, which read as follows:
The Grand Jurors of the State of New Jersey, for the County of Monmouth, upon their oaths present that CHRISTINE BOSSONE, on or about and between April, 2004 and June, 2004, in or about the Borough of Spring Lake, County of Monmouth, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, did commit the crime of Forgery, by making and/or completing a writing, namely, an automobile loan application and/or a credit card application, so that it purported to be the act of K.T., who did not authorize that act, with the purpose to defraud Capital One Bank and/or Coastal Federal Credit Union, contrary to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1a(2), and against the peace of this State, the Government and dignity of the same.
UTTERING A FORGED INSTRUMENT
The Grand Jurors of the State of New Jersey, for the County of Monmouth, upon their oaths present that CHRISTINE BOSSONE, on or about and between April, 2004 and June, 2004, in or about the Borough of Spring Lake, County of Monmouth, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, did commit the crime of Uttering a Forged Instrument, to wit: an automobile loan application and a credit card application, with purpose to defraud or injure another or with knowledge that a fraud or injury was being facilitated, the perpetration of, altering, making or completing, a writing, which she knew to be forged, to wit: various retail merchants ...