N.J. attorney pleads guilty to stealing from elderly clients

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Attorney Barbara Lieberman

An attorney who was once a respected practitioner of elder law in Atlantic County, N.J., pleaded guilty Monday to stealing millions of dollars from her clients.

Barbara Lieberman, 62, of Northfield, will lose her law license in New Jersey and must pay $3 million in restitution to her victims, the state Attorney General's Office said. She also will have to give up a BMW.

Lieberman, who pleaded guilty to money laundering in Superior Court in Mays Landing, faces up to 10 years in prison. She used to offer seminars on wills to senior citizens.

She was arrested in March along with Jan Van Holt, 58, of Linwood, whose case is ongoing. Van Holt operated an in-home senior care company called A Better Choice. She and Lieberman allegedly referred elderly clients to each other between 2006 and 2013.

Lieberman sought senior citizens with large assets and few immediate family members, making the scheme easier to cover up, the Attorney General's Office said.

By naming herself as power of attorney on wills and other documents, Lieberman was able to transfer victims' assets into bank accounts that she and Van Holt then used, authorities said. Lieberman paid off six-figure credit-card bills, while Van Holt bought a Florida condominium and two Mercedes-Benzes, authorities said.

Lieberman also was accused of stealing from victims' estates after their deaths.

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in March that the scam targeted 10 people, most in their 80s and 90s and in Atlantic and Cape May Counties.

Among the victims was a 94-year-old woman who died in a nursing home after the defendants allegedly put a $195,000 reverse mortgage on her home. The woman's name was not released.

"Lieberman turned the ethical precept that we should honor our elders on its head, heartlessly stealing the money that her unsuspecting clients needed to be able to spend their last days in comfort and dignity," Hoffman said in a statement Monday.

His office did not return a call inquiring whether Lieberman had an attorney to speak on her behalf.

In addition to her and Van Holt, two others have faced theft charges in connection with the scheme. They are Sondra Steen, 58, of Linwood, Van Holt's sister, and Susan Hamlett, 55, of Egg Harbor Township, who worked for Van Holt as an aide.

Lieberman is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 3, 2015.


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