By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 2, 2010; B01
An ex-con who married an elderly widow in the front seat of his car as part of a massive swindle was convicted by a Montgomery County jury Monday and faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in jail.
Roger Greenberg, 68, was found guilty of theft, embezzlement, financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and neglect. Prosecutors said he ingratiated his way into Evelyn Zucker's life in 2007, stole $130,829 from her and altered her will to position himself to get considerably more.
Greenberg also left Zucker, 84, alone and confused in a filthy hotel room, where she was found in December 2008 having just suffered a heart attack. Since then, she has given inconsistent statements about whether Greenberg stole from her, underscoring a challenge for detectives and prosecutors in such cases.
On Monday, she seemed upset about the verdict. "Did Roger get free?" she asked when reached by telephone at her nursing home.
No, she was told.
"Oh, dear God. I wanted him out."
At one point during the interview, Zucker said she didn't know whether Greenberg took her money, and at another she said he did not. "He hasn't done anything," she said. "Why should he be convicted?"
Zucker was called as a witness by prosecutors on the first day of the week-long trial. At times, she said Greenberg should be set free. At other times, she implicated him as being deeply involved in her finances.
Zucker said Monday that Greenberg looked at her in court and mouthed, "I love you," to which she said she didn't respond. He has said he wants to restore his union with Zucker, which has been annulled by a judge, but Zucker said she doesn't want that.
In her closing argument to jurors, prosecutor Jessica Hall urged them to understand why Zucker was reluctant to admit that fraud had occurred right under her nose.
"Ms. Zucker has worked her whole life for what she has," Hall said. "Her generosity was exploited."
The jury deliberated for slightly more than three hours. Greenberg was silent as the jury read the verdict, in contrast to his repeated whispers to one of his attorneys during the trial. He took a couple of deep breaths and hard swallows and blinked but said nothing.
Greenberg faces 40 years in prison when he is sentenced May 7, by Judge Eric M. Johnson.
A native of New York with a gift for telling entertaining stories, Greenberg said he met Zucker about 20 years ago.
After police closed in on Greenberg, they found that he had been cutting up a copy of her will and creating a new one, according to testimony. The two were married Nov. 26, 2008, in a car outside a courthouse in Rockville.
From there, Greenberg took Zucker to the Sleep Inn hotel. Hall, the prosecutor, implied that Greenberg was hoping she would die.
"He stands to inherit the home when she dies," Hall told jurors. "He stands to inherit her estate when she dies. So what does he do on the morning of December the 9th? He leaves Evelyn, having suffered five hours of chest pains, lying in her feces and urine, in the hotel room at the Sleep Inn. And he leaves. He goes. He's out of there."
Adam Harris, Greenberg's attorney, told jurors that Greenberg never neglected Zucker and only wanted the best for her. There was no indication that he had caused any medical problems Zucker may have suffered, Harris added.
"Roger Greenberg and Evelyn Zucker had a relationship where they each gained something," Harris said. "Roger gave Evelyn care. Care in the form of companionship, of time and of attention. And Evelyn gave Roger the only thing that she had to give, which was money. Roger Greenberg didn't commit a crime. He didn't steal from Evelyn. He didn't exert undue influence over Evelyn. He didn't neglect Evelyn."
Greenberg was convicted on four of five counts. He was acquitted of first-degree neglect but convicted of second-degree neglect.