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76-year-old admits swindling 98-year-old out of almost $400,000

By Caroline Gransee and Leigh Remizowski, CNN
  • Businessman Harry Abrams took the money while his friend was hospitalized, prosecutor says
  • Abrams says the victim was "like a father to him," according to the DA's office
  • He is ordered to pay back $388,000 and spend weekends in jail for a year

New York (CNN) -- Medicare and Social Security didn't seem to be enough for one 76-year-old New Yorker: He confessed he swindled nearly $400,000 from his 98-year-old victim.

New York businessman Harry Abrams was ordered Thursday to pay $388,063.75 in restitution and sentenced to weekends in jail for a year after being caught forging checks and transferring thousands of dollars from accounts held by a man who Abrams said was "like a father" to him, said district attorney's office spokeswoman Joan Vollero.

His victim was a 98-year-old, semi-retired lawyer, Emanuel Baetich, according to law enforcement sources.

Abrams pleaded guilty to all charges, which included grand larceny, forgery and money laundering, Vollero said.

He carried out his complex scheme to fleece his friend while Baetich was hospitalized during 2009 and 2010, said Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Loewy, who heads the office's Elder Abuse Unit. Abrams allowed Baetich to work from his office in Midtown Manhattan free of charge, she added, since the two had been friends for years.

Abrams used the stolen money to fund his failing companies, a vacation to Puerto Rico and other expenses such as shopping sprees at Costco, Lands' End and trips to Jenny Craig, according to a statement released by the district attorney's office after Abrams was arrested in November.

Baetich could not be reached and Abrams did not return calls seeking comment.