The Ramsey County Attorney's Office has charged a North St. Paul woman with swindling $220,000 from her blind mother whose care was entrusted to her.
A criminal complaint filed Wednesday says Marsha Truskolaski abused her power of attorney over her 75-year-old mother's financial affairs to pay for vacations, private school tuition for her children, and expensive home improvements including a swimming pool.
Truskolaski and her brother, Mark Aspelund, shared power of attorney for their mother, according to the complaint.
Aspelund, who lives in Florida, contacted police last summer and accused his sister of financially exploiting their mother.
"This case is a heartbreaking example of the growing problem of elder abuse that police and prosecutors see all too often as our population ages and we face difficult economic times," County Attorney Susan Gaertner said.
According to the complaint, Truskolaski redeemed two certificates of deposit totaling $106,000; used her mother's credit card to charge $28,000; spent $2,551 at Jared's Jewelers; used nearly $15,000 to take her family on vacations; and spent another $15,000 at restaurants.
Truskolaski also allegedly paid off the loan for her car and paid her property taxes with her mother's money.
Her mother, Norlinda Aspelund, told White Bear Lake police that as a result of the thefts, she was forced to move out of her assisted-living community in White Bear Lake because she could no longer afford it.
She had lived there since 2005. She was paying for her housing with money from a long-term care insurance policy that her husband had taken out before his death, as well as Social Security checks and retirement money from her career as a teacher.
Norlinda Aspelund told police she was too blind to write checks or read paper, so her son and daughter handled everything. Norlinda Aspelund also told investigators she never authorized the items Truskolaski purchased.
When investigators asked her if she could have given her daughter permission to make the transactions and later forgotten, she said that when it comes to her money "she is clear as a whistle."
Truskolaski is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Ramsey County District Court on Aug. 17. If found guilty, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.