NEW YORK (AP) – A physician was accused Wednesday of stealing his 94-year-old mother's life savings of more than $800,000 after taking control of her finances through a power of attorney, leaving her virtually impoverished.
"He took pretty much all that she had," Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Wednesday when he announced the indictment of Dr. Robin Motz. Motz's mother, Minnie, now lives on a small pension and Social Security, Morgenthau said.
Motz, 68, was accused of stealing $832,453 from his mother after taking over her finances in 2003. Morgenthau said Motz spent the money on flat-screen TVs and other luxuries; travel to the Bahamas, Mexico and Hong Kong; and on his vacation house in Hillsdale, N.Y.
"This is a mini-Astor case," Morgenthau said, referring to charges pending against Anthony Marshall, who is accused of theft from his mother, society grande dame and philanthropist Brooke Astor.
Motz was arraigned in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, where he pleaded not guilty to second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on either count.
Motz's lawyer, Sean Dwyer, said his client "is devastated by this, but we're looking forward to the chance to defend him."
Justice John Cataldo released Motz on $200,000 cash bail and scheduled his next court date for Jan. 30.
Motz, who lives on the Upper East Side with his third wife, is an internist who practices in Englewood, N.J., and has admitting privileges at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.
Minnie Motz, a retired librarian, was mentally alert but had some physical ailments, Morgenthau said. He said Motz told his mother he was using her power of attorney — the legal right to make decisions for her — to consolidate her bank accounts to aid him in paying her bills.
In early 2004, Morgenthau said, Motz moved his mother's investment accounts from Oppenheimer & Co. to Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., where he had an account. He depleted the accounts by paying his own $400,000 credit card bills, paying a contractor $200,000 for working on his vacation house, paying his racket club dues, and giving large cash gifts to his children.
Motz's mother learned of her financial predicament when her Upper West Side co-op levied a special assessment to cover the cost of rebuilding a retaining wall that had collapsed and she was unable to pay it.
With Minnie Motz facing eviction, the building's management called a social worker, who contacted the district attorney's elder abuse unit. That unit started an immediate investigation, Morgenthau said.