Father’s ‘betrayal’ in Chester County leads to state prison for son – Daily Local
WEST CHESTER – A visibly upset Chester County Common Pleas judge on Friday sentenced a West Brandywine man who admitted to helping his ex-wife deplete his father’s savings so she could organize a expensive marriage with her new husband in state prison for his treason.
“He betrayed his father,” said bubbling judge Patrick Carmody of Terry Allen Phillips, who pleaded guilty in August to counts of theft and conspiracy to take $ 225,000 from his father’s accounts, the older man’s retirement benefits from decades of working as Lukens. Steel Co. employee “It’s a fact.”
âIt’s a horrible crime, guys,â Carmody said, speaking to lawyers for both parties involved in the cases against Phillips and his former wife, Marliessa Armentrout-Lopez. âYou have an 83-year-old victim whose savings have been washed away. They all lived on the pig and spent his money like theirs. They emptied the well.
“It’s rare that a case shocks me,” the veteran judge and former county attorney said as the courtroom listened. âThis case shocks me.
Carmody handed down twin sentences of 40 to 80 months in jail for the couple, ranging from three years and four months to six years and eight months. He also ordered restitution to William Phillips, who currently lives in a nursing home and is in the care of his youngest son, Aaron Phillips and his wife.
Phillips, Armentrout-Lopez and her husband, Juan Lopez-Morales, all pleaded guilty as the case against them went to trial. In this unusual case, the prosecution admitted that while they could prove the charges against the trip beyond a reasonable doubt, they couldn’t answer the central question: why would a son betray a father. who had gathered him and supported him as he got his chance?
“They all benefited directly from it,” said Assistant District Attorney Daniel Yarnall, who continued the case with Assistant District Attorney William J. Judge Jr., asking for lengthy prison terms for the couple. “But what motivation did Terry Phillips have to betray his father,” he wondered. âWe don’t have a good answer for that. I don’t think we’ll ever know.
For their part, Terry Phillips and Armentrout-Lopez kind of apologized to Carmody for their crimes, even as their lawyers sought to shift the ultimate blame on the other for orchestrating and allowing the scheme to loot bank accounts. by William Phillips.
“I would just like to say that I am sorry I did not take care of my father’s money,” said Terry Philips, 58, of Glenmoore, in his statement. âI never intended to empty everything he had. All I can do is apologize for my negligence.
Armentrout-Lopez, 51, of Coatesville, reading a prepared statement, admitted that she had injured not only William Phillips, but also Aaron Phillips, his wife and his extended family, which includes five children at home. âI’ll always be ashamed and confused as to why I did this. I swear I learned my lesson, but putting myself in jail for it doesn’t help them.
Authorities claim the trio devised the scheme to plunder the old man’s retirement savings and bank account and use the money to profit from it after he was hospitalized due to a fall at his West Brandywine home. Among the items allegedly purchased with the stolen funds are a number of computers and mobile devices; Exercise equipment; a cleaning robot; and an air purifier.
But also included in the list of things that were paid for with William Phillips money are the pieces of the nuptials between Armentrout-Lopez and Lopez-Morales in the winter of 2018: catering costs, event planning, DJ services. ; and hair and make-up costs. Over $ 35,000 was apparently spent to make the wedding a success, all, according to authorities, from William Phillips’ bank account – allegedly without his knowledge or approval.
The case began as an investigation by West Brandywine Police Officer Phil Mollichella in August 2018 into financial irregularities in William Phillip’s account at the Citadel Federal Credit Union.
According to a criminal complaint, Phillips was hospitalized at Brandywine Hospital in Caln after falling at his home in early June 2018. He was released from there after a short stay, with only minor injuries, and was sent to Hickory House. Nursing Home in Honey Brook in rehab. He was released from that facility at the end of the month and placed in the care of his son, Aaron Phillips, who lives in East Fallowfield.
In August, Phillips told his son he wanted to get a Citadel debit card so he could purchase personal items for himself while he lived in East Fallowfield. But when they went to the Citadel, they learned that there was only $ 1,300 in the account, rather the hundreds of thousands of assets that should have been there.
Aaron Phillips told Mollichella he noticed “suspicious activity” on his father’s Discover credit card account, as well as the lack of funds in the credit union account. He also discovered a copy of an Enduring Power of Attorney (POA) document that had been signed on July 27, 2018, the day before the elder Phillips was released from the nursing home.
The POA listed Terry Phillips as principal and was assisted by Armentrout-Lopez and Lopez-Morales. Armentrout-Lopez was also listed as a health worker for Phillips in another dorm, a power of attorney for health care. Terry Phillips and Armentrout-Lopez were once married but divorced in January 2002.
In an interview with William Phillips, Mollichella learned that Phillips was visited by his son Terry, Armentrout-Lopez and Lopez-Morales on July 27, 2018. The three apparently took the older man for ice cream, and on the way back to Hickory House stopped at Wiggins Auto Tags in Caln. There, Terry Phillips presented his father with a document and asked him to sign it for a notary. When William Phillips asked him what the document was for, his son told him not to worry but to sign so his bills could be paid.
Eventually, the investigation led Mollichella to the home of Armentrout-Lopez and Lopez-Morales in Coatesville. There he recovered a set of coins which William Phillips said had been taken from his home and which Terry Phillips said were handed over to Armentrout-Lopez. When asked about the parts, Armentrout-Lopez told the investigator that she was authorized to take the parts by Phillips and that she was allowed to pay some of her bills.
On August 31, 2018, Chester County Detective James Ciliberto joined the investigation. He was able to get bank statements, online shopping and credit cards that showed activity on William Phillips accounts, with electronic deposits, withdrawals, transfers and advances, although Phillips said he had never used online or mobile banking methods, according to the criminal. complaint.
Further investigation by Ciliberto showed that from February 2018 through August 2018, the trio Armentrout-Lopez and Lopez-Morales and Terry Phillips used the William Phillips Citadel account to make over $ 100,000 in purchases that had not been authorized. There were over $ 79,000 in purchases with his credit card – sometimes using the credit card to replenish the funds in the bank account.
Additionally, Ciliberto discovered that Phillips’ Vanguard Fund’s three retirement accounts totaled $ 149,242, transferring the funds to the Citadel account so that more purchases could be made, according to court documents.
When Ciliberto finally confronted Armentrout-Lopez in June 2019, she told him that all the purchases she made were authorized by William and Terry Phillips and that they were paying for her maid service for the Phillips house in Glenmoore. During a search of the house, Ciliberto said he found four iPads, a laptop, an air purifier, a Roomba cleaning robot, a Nordic track treadmill and a set of weights.
All had been purchased with William Phillips’ finances – including catering and the DJ for his wedding, according to the complaint.
Terry Phillips was represented by Assistant Public Defender Chelsea Holland. Armentrout-Lopez was represented by lawyer Laurence Harmelin of West Chester. Lopez-Morales, who cooperated with investigators, will be sentenced at a later date.
To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.