Police say man swindled Montgomery County widow

By Dan Morse
Monday, February 22, 2010

The day before Roger Greenberg, a then-66-year-old ex-con, married Evelyn Zucker, a then-83-year-old invalid widow, he wrote a note to his bride-to-be.

"Take all your valuables with you or you won't find them when you return!" he said. "Wear warm clothes, but only bring your big pocket book besides your valuables cash-diamonds. Bring all medicines."

They married in the front seat of his car Nov. 26, 2008, with a minister leaning in the window.

Prosecutors allege that for Greenberg, it wasn't about love; it was all part of a massive swindle -- an audacious example of the stealing expected to rise as the number of people older than 75 nearly doubles over the next two decades. According to the MetLife Mature Market Institute, more than $2.6 billion is taken annually from U.S. senior citizens who might have lost mental functioning, physical functioning or both.

"Evelyn Zucker is a classic victim," said Robert McCarthy, a lawyer appointed to manage her assets. "She's a childless widow. She's also a nice lady. That's who they hunt for."

Greenberg is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court on charges that include embezzlement, theft and exploitation and neglect of a vulnerable adult. The final charge relates to how police found Zucker: by herself in a hotel room, two weeks after the front-seat wedding, curled on a bed stained with feces, suffering from dementia, and having had a heart attack two or three days earlier, according to police accounts filed in court.

Prosecutors say that for a year, Greenberg had ingratiated himself to Zucker by leveraging an old friendship with her late son Harry. He took her to her favorite delicatessen. He moved into the Silver Spring house that she shared with her ailing mixed terrier, Samantha. He convinced her that banks were no longer safe and got her to write him checks but never took them to a lawyer, as he had told Zucker he would, prosecutors say.

Police charged Greenberg with stealing $112,829 from Zucker and said he was lined up to get more. Zucker added Greenberg's name to the deed of her house and signed a new will making him the main beneficiary, placing him in position to get nearly $1 million from the estate of her late sister.

In two recent interviews through a glass window in the Montgomery jail, Greenberg said that he never stole from Zucker and that it was her idea to change her will and give him the house. He wrote the pre-marriage note to Zucker, he said, to protect her from police, who wanted to steal from her, and bureaucrats, who wanted to move her to a nursing home.

"It was time for us to just get out of there," Greenberg said.

His current plan: Get out of jail as soon as possible, perhaps by taking a plea deal, and reestablish a union with Zucker that was annulled two months ago by a judge. "I love her," Greenberg said. "She needs me. I need her."

Not quite, Zucker said in an interview Thursday in her room at a nursing home in Silver Spring: "He needs me, honey, and my money. I don't need him."

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