Tonya Weiss was so notorious for stealing from the elderly that police used audio of the “Sweetheart Swindler” in training sessions, but that didn’t stop one elder care company from hiring her.
Ohio-based Nightingale Home Support and Care is accused of hiring the convicted fraud, who had just left prison for the most recent in a decades-long string of crimes targeting elders. In a new lawsuit, a Nightingale client said she conducted a more thorough background check than the elder care company, simply by googling Weiss’s name.
Rosa Rideout, 83, hired Nightingale Home Support for in-home care in September 2015. But she quickly became suspicious of her assigned caregiver Tonya Weiss. After Rideout allowed Weiss into her home, her personal and family belongings allegedly began disappearing, she claims in her suit. Rideout’s bank account began showing unusual charges. Someone was changing the names on Rideout’s property deeds, transferring their ownership without her knowledge.
Rideout puts her damages at over $25,000—and she says the thefts were completely preventable.
“Had Defendants performed even a quick google search on their employee they sent into Plaintiff Rideout’s home, they would have discovered her criminal past,” Rideout’s suit against Nightingale claims.
A simple search could have revealed Weiss’s incriminating nickname. Police called her the “Sweetheart Swindler” for her reputation of squeezing lonely elders for cash since the 1960s. While living part-time in Florida in 1997, Weiss was convicted of scamming $490,000 from a 91-year-old man. Simultaneously, she was facing accusations of swindling thousands from nine senior citizens in an Ohio alzheimer’s care center.
While in an Ohio prison serving out sentences for both cases, Weiss pleaded guilty to additional charges of obstructing justice, forgery, and aiding an escape, over her involvement in an unrelated 1995 prison break. Weiss had forged documents allowing inmate Thurman Green to escape prison, a break police only discovered after Green struck and killed a 16-year-old with his car after escaping prison. Weiss’s guilty plea allowed her to leave prison early, although she made a speedy return in 2001 on a theft conviction against a 75-year-old widower.
But prison didn’t stop Weiss from scamming. From behind bars, Weiss picked new marks from the local newspaper, writing letters to two elderly men who had placed personal ads.
“She’s as slick as a whistle. She’ll talk the shoes right off your feet,” Luke Hilton, one of Weiss’s targets told the Columbus Dispatch after Weiss’s 2003 indictment over the nearly $30,000-plus she stole from him and another elderly man.
Often Weiss posed as a caregiver. While working at the Columbus Alzheimer’s Care Center in the 1997, she found was guilty of stealing over $170,000 from patients, some of which was stolen from patients’ mail.
“What a pedophile is to children, Tonya Weiss is to the elderly,” investigator Dave Kessler told the Columbus Dispatch after a 2012 conviction on new fraud charges.
And it appeared Weiss could not stay away. Shortly after her release from a 32-month sentence, she was back stealing from the elderly, Rideout claims. It is unclear whether she is under criminal investigation for her latest alleged heist.
Reached by phone, a Nightingale employee appeared surprised by news of the lawsuit. “Oh wow,” the woman said, not giving her name before transferring to the voicemail of a supervisor who did not return a request for comment.