Don't spend that inheritance money until it's yours

  • Sharon Cermak

    Sharon Cermak

 
Posted10/18/2019 5:30 AM

Just because you're set to inherit money soon doesn't mean you get to take it before your loved one dies.

DuPage County Judge John Kinsella made that clear Thursday when he sentenced Sharon Cermak of Villa Park to 120 days in jail and three years of probation for stealing more than $100,000 from her 85-year-old uncle's bank account.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You took it upon yourself to determine, 'Well, he's not going to live that long,' and spent his money -- that's wrong," Kinsella told Cermak.

Cermak, 63, obtained power of attorney to oversee the care and finances of her uncle in June 2013. DuPage County Adult Protective Services began investigating her three years later.

She was arrested in January 2017, two weeks after her uncle's death, on charges of bank fraud and financial exploitation of a person older than 80. The exploitation charge was dropped when Cermak pleaded guilty to bank fraud in August.

Authorities said she took more than $250,000 from her uncle, with Assistant DuPage County State's Attorney Diane Michalak saying Cermak treated his money like a "newfound piggy bank."

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"Her justification is: 'There was still money in his account when he died,'" Michalak said.

In court Thursday, Cermak described using her uncle's money to buy a car but said she bought a modest one instead of a Camaro and had intended to reimburse his accounts. She insisted she planned to pay him back for other spending as well, like money she used for a trip to Florida.

"I was not aware I was not supposed to use his money," Cermak said.

Kinsella didn't buy Cermak's explanation.

"I suspect this kind of thing goes on undetected and unreported all the time," the judge said.

Crime pays?

Despite her conviction, Cermak still might get her uncle's estate, which Michalak said could be worth $455,000.

She appears to be the only specified heir left, and no other relatives were to receive anything under the terms of amendments he made to his will in 2014.

But the DuPage County public guardian is disputing those amendments, arguing in probate court that the uncle was incapable of understanding what he was signing due to dementia and that Cermak took advantage of him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If Cermak had been convicted of financial exploitation, the state's probate law could have prevented her from inheriting the estate. The next court date for the probate case is Oct. 24.

Richard Felice
Richard Felice
Coming ...

The Illinois Supreme Court has chosen longtime family law attorney Richard Felice to replace ousted Patrick O'Shea as a DuPage County circuit court judge.

Felice, whose law office is in Wheaton, will fill the post from Nov. 4 until Dec. 7, 2020. An attorney for 40 years, focusing primarily on family law and civil litigation, Felice has been president of both the Illinois and DuPage County bar associations. Fellow bar association lawyers rated him as "highly recommended" when he sought a judicial appointment in 2002.

He will fill the post left when the Illinois Courts Commission removed O'Shea from office for lying to police when they investigated the firing of a bullet from his apartment into a neighbor's; for lying to the Judicial Inquiry Board about the shooting; and for retaliating against two court employees who accused him of sexual harassment.

O'Shea was elected to the bench; his term expires in 2020.

Bill Arneson
Bill Arneson
... and going

After more than four decades of looking out for the residents of Rolling Meadows, longtime Deputy Police Chief Bill Arneson has retired.

Arneson held many roles over his 42-year career, including patrol officer, field training officer, firearms training officer, investigator, sergeant, commander and deputy chief. He filled in as interim chief in 2016 after the retirement of former Chief David Scanlan.

Arneson also spent time as a member of the Northwest Suburban Auto Theft Task Force, oversaw special events in the city, led protection details when dignitaries came to town and managed training efforts to prepare his fellow officers for responses to school and workplace violence.

"Needless to say, we will miss him dearly, but we are happy that he is going to enjoy a well-deserved retirement," the police department wrote on its Facebook page. Cmdr. John Sircher was sworn in last week as the new deputy chief.

Lori Schmidt
Lori Schmidt
Sticking up for kids

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon has appointed Assistant State's Attorney Lori Schmidt the assistant director of the Kane County Child Advocacy Center.

Schmidt joined the state's attorney's office in 2003 and has worked in the domestic violence, abuse and neglect and juvenile divisions before being assigned to the CAC in 2008. While attending law school, she worked for the Cook County public guardian's office, advocating for wards of the state.

"I've seen the horrible things that happen to kids from many perspectives, and I'm committed to ending the injustices," Schmidt said. "I'm grateful to be able to advocate for vulnerable kids."

The advocacy center is a division of the state's attorney's office that investigates cases of child sex and physical abuse.

Doughnuts? Where?

Even couch-potato Susan can do this: The Aurora Police Foundation is having its first Donut Dash half-kilometer fundraising race Saturday.

That's not a typo: half a kilometer, or 1,640 feet.

It is at 10 a.m. at police headquarters, 1200 E. Indian Trail Road, Aurora. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $30 for individuals, $100 for a family of four, $30 for a virtual run and $20 if you just want to get a T-shirt and pretend you ran. Register at aurora-il.org/DonutDash.

And, yes, the refreshments include doughnuts.

• Got a tip or comment? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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