The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Philadelphia paralegal Bonnie Sweeten has made national news headlines for claiming that she and her daughter were carjacked, setting off a “law enforcement and media frenzy” earlier this week, and now faces further legal woes as accusations surface of alleged thefts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from her former employer and a children’s charity organization.
The alleged thefts may have involved clients of the law firm where she worked, family members, or both. According to a police detective with knowledge of the investigation, one or more of the accounts were in the names of Sweeten’s parents.
Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry said a decision on filing felony theft charges was not imminent. Henry said that the investigation into possible theft charges “will take some time,” and that there certainly would be no charges brought immedately.
“You’re talking about going through a lot of financial records,” she said. She would not comment on whether investigators were focused on thefts from current or former family members, or clients of the law firm where Sweeten worked.
Sweeten, a paralegal married to a state Department of Transportation worker who runs a landscaping service on the side, appeared to be living beyond her means. The couple took out a 30-year, $403,729 mortgage in 2006 to buy their four-bedroom, two-bath house.
The GMC Yukon Denali she allegedly ditched in Center City en route to Florida would have cost around $50,000 new.
Police investigators have also told reporters that Sweeten had been spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.
Sweeten had worked for many years for suspended personal-injury lawyer Debbie A. Carlitz, who has accused Sweeten of stealing from her law firm. The firm closed last year after Carlitz’s license to practice law was suspended for one year and one day for practicing law while ineligible to do so, having failed to keep up with continuing legal-education requirements.
A lawyer for Carlitz has said that the district attorney’s probe also was looking into Sweeten’s conduct with the Carlitz Foundation, formed in October to support children’s charities. Lawyer Ellen C. Brotman has described Carlitz as “shocked and devastated” by Sweeten’s alleged actions.
In an earlier story published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms. Sweeten is described as a “paralegal and notary public. Both jobs – state records list Sweeten as the foundation’s contact and “tax responsible party” – appear to have given her unusual access to the management and finances of the two business entities.”
Numerous individuals have been quoted in the news this week as raising concerns about Ms. Sweeten’s questionable financial transactions, including a former co-worker of 9 years, Jillian Jenkinson, whose driver’s license was used to buy the embattled mother’s tickets to Disney World and whose $4,000.00 retirement account went missing. (phillyBurbs.com)
Also, personal injury claimant Lydia Demetro says that she “hit a brick wall” trying to find out what happened to a $50,000.00 settlement Ms. Sweeten told her that she would receive earlier this year. (6abc.com)
Finally, Ms. Sweeten’s husband, Todd, is claiming that he is the most mystified by his wife’s financial transactions, despite the fact that the couple purchased a new home for $425,000.00 in 2006.
Defense attorney quote of the week: Ms. Sweeten’s lawyer, Louis R. Busico, says, “It’s not a crime to take your kid to Disney World.”