A Swissvale steamfitter's $1.7 million estate helped fund what authorities described Monday in court papers as a roughly $40,000 illegal buying binge by his daughter, who is also accused of forging a will.
Contrary to her obligations as power of attorney for her father, Brittany Gaither, 23, used money from Elwood Gaither's estate -- before and after his death -- to buy herself plane tickets, meals at Red Lobster, jewelry and items at Coach, Macy's and Wilsons Leather, a police affidavit says.
Detective Jackelyn Weibel of the Allegheny County district attorney's office also wrote that she uncovered "many ATM withdrawals" from the account of Ms. Gaither's father "with at least one near the Meadows [Racetrack and] Casino" in Washington, Pa.
Ms. Gaither of Knoxville was charged along with her aunt, Darlene DeMarzo, 46, of Banksville in a scheme to siphon money from Gaither, a lifetime steamfitter who died wealthy. In March 2012, Gaither reached a seven-figure settlement with former employers he had sued for causing his lung cancer through asbestos exposure.
Both women were charged with criminal conspiracy, forgery and theft by unlawful taking -- Ms. Gaither for spending $41,563, Ms. DeMarzo for taking possession on the day of Gaither's death of his 2012 Chevrolet Avalanche, a pickup truck that retails for about $36,000.
Ms. Gaither also was charged with misapplication of entrusted property, while Ms. DeMarzo also was charged with receiving stolen property.
Ms. Gaither's power of attorney was "null and void" upon her father's death, and she had no authority to transfer the vehicle to Ms. DeMarzo, according to the affidavit.
Both women turned themselves in Monday and were arraigned before District Judge Thomas P. Caulfield. They were released on nonmonetary bond and face a preliminary hearing April 2.
Blaine Jones, Ms. DeMarzo's attorney, said, "We are in the process of sitting down with her and discussing the case more in depth."
Ms. Gaither's attorney could not be reached.
After Gaither's death, another daughter, Regina Dumas, squabbled with Ms. Gaither in a tabloid-worthy feud that included demands for genetic testing to prove that each woman was indeed Gaither's kin. The women have different mothers.
Also involved in the increasingly litigious fray were Ms. Gaither's mother and Ms. DeMarzo's sister, Dinah Morris Gaither, now deceased, who provided hospice care at Gaither's Swissvale home and married Gaither three days before his death.
Family and friends called into question the marriage while he was on heavy pain medication and unable to sign any papers.
As for Gaither's will, at least three copies exist, according to the affidavit. One originally left money to both daughters but had Ms. Dumas' name and the word "equally" crossed out below the initials "EG"; a second is identical but lacks the initials; a third leaves everything to Ms. Gaither.
Detective Weibel wrote in the affidavit that Ms. Gaither, her mother and aunt conspired to change Gaither's will against his wishes so Ms. Dumas would receive nothing.
Gaither's attorneys said their client was "adamant" that his daughters share his estate equally, the affidavit said.
Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg. First Published March 24, 2014 2:35 PM