Never paid the bills
Eventually, Sorrentino learned what had really been going on.
Aronson had acquired her personal information, such as her social security number, when he helped her refinance her previous house. When he moved into her new home, Aronson never paid the bills as they had agreed $6,200 was due for the property taxes and $1,000 was due for the cable TV. Aronson never paid the electric bill either the power was about to be turned off.
Aronson applied for the first credit card in Sorrentino’s name on July 18, 2012, while her stepson was just recuperating from the bleeding in his brain. The statements were sent to a rented mailbox that was the mystery address Sorrentino found. And he set up a phone number in Sorrentino’s name, but calls were transferred to his cell phone. So Sorrentino never saw the statements or received calls when the bills were past due.
When Sorrentino gave Aronson cash for groceries, he kept the cash and charged the food to one of the credit cards. And when Aronson took Sorrentino’s business bank deposit to the bank for her, he skimmed the cash and just deposited the checks. The bank account for the salon was short about $4,000.
Plus, Sorrentino said Aronson offered to sell her tennis bracelets one with diamonds, the other with diamonds and rubies. They’re gone, but Aronson denies taking them, and Sorrentino has no proof. “It’s my word against his,” she said.
Sorrentino was outraged that Aronson stole from her. But what she found truly mind-boggling was how he lavishly spent money that he didn’t have.
Aronson flew Sorrentino’s daughter and her boyfriend from Philadelphia to Dallas to watch a professional football game. When Sorrentino’s mother wanted to visit Disneyworld with her family, Aronson rented a mansion for them to stay in.
“He was doing these things,” Sorrentino said, incredulously, “adding more to the debt when he didn’t need to.”
All along, he’d been spinning a web of lies, bragging about making million dollar mortgages, and earning thousands of dollars in commissions. He painted a picture of financial stability, even wealth.
Sorrentino now doesn’t know if Aronson was working at all.
Sorrentino went to the police, and they put a warrant out for Aronson’s arrest. When he didn’t turn himself in, the police asked Sorrentino to help with a sting: If she could convince Aronson to come to her house, they would pick him up.
As soon as Aronson drove up, the police were there. “He was arrested right in front of me,” Sorrentino says.
Aronson was charged with theft by deception, credit card fraud and identity theft.
“Now he blames me for everything,” Sorrentino said. “He blames Lisa, my employee, saying it’s all her fault for putting things in my head. He doesn’t understand why I won’t help him, instead of throwing him away. I don’t like liars.”
Aronson also gave her a bizarre explanation for his behavior.
“After he admitted what he had done, he said he couldn’t keep up with my spending,” she continued. “I’m frugal. But he said he couldn’t keep up with my way of life, so he had to do this. Oh my God!”
Letter to the lawyer
Aronson tried to manipulate his way out of trouble. He prepared a document to have Sorrentino transfer the credit card balances to his name as if the credit card companies would ever agree to that.
Sorrentino refused to speak to him, so Aronson sent letters to her attorney. In one he wrote:
As you will see I accepted responsibility for what I did and even though I was diagnosed bipolar and what I did was part of a manic episode brought on by stress and depression. All of our family was going through a lot during this time given what was happening and a lot of emotions were going on and a lot of my emotions was brought on by seeing Lisa’s stepson going through what he was with a brain tumor which is the same thing my mother died from years ago and at that time I was not able to do anything for her since I was not living here but in another state at the time. Also there were other factors as well and all I have wanted to do since all of this happened was to be able to explain myself to Lisa and everyone but I have been pushed out by all those who were my family. I begged for help and no one will listen to me. This whole episode I have lost my family, my self-respect, self-esteem, and disrespected the memory of Lisa’s stepson and his father who I thought of as a father who I could talk to when I needed help in the past when I was going through tough times or just needed advise (sic). I never meant for any of this to happen and wish and pray every day that it did not.
All I am trying to show is I wanted to fix this long ago. I was told that this could sit for a long time before it gets fixed and I don’t want that. I just wanted to have this debt put in my name and so I can make the payments like I was already doing. You deal with medical cases and I am sure you may or may not know about bipolar but not everyone is the same and that is what is not understood by anyone. None of this was in my nature to do and all I wanted was to do was have the people who were supposed to be family to be there to at least support me and to listen to me and what I have to say especially Lisa who I love with all my heart and never wanted to hurt her or put her through more pain that (sic) she has already been through. But there were a lot of factors involved with all of this and it could have been done if I was not pushed out without even being able to talk. As I stated there are too many emotions with all of this on all parts and there is no question that all of us need to be counseled as a family given all that has happened. And having my name slandered is not how you help someone get better.
In a plea bargain, Gary J. Aronson pleaded guilty to identity theft, and the other charges were dismissed.
Sorrentino attended his sentencing on November 12, 2013. Aronson got five years of probation and was ordered to pay restitution for the $78,000 in fraudulent charges. But what Aronson apparently didn’t realize when he made the deal was that the restitution would be collected by the court, not the credit card companies.
“When Gary heard that, he turned white,” Sorrentino said.
Exploited when vulnerable
Sorrentino now realizes that Aronson took advantage of her when she was vulnerable. She believed that this man was providing her with companionship and support as she endured so much heartbreak and change. In reality, she was being exploited.
“When I first realized it was him, I was angry,” Sorrentino said. “I was upset because I allowed this man into my family.”
But what most infuriated her was the fact that he stole from the business.
“That’s where I really drew the line,” she said. “You touched my husband. That’s where my anger and venom came out.
“That shop in my eyes will always be Joe. He worked it. I was devastated. I was hysterical. When I found out he went into my business Joe’s account that threw me over the edge.”
Filling the void
When her husband died, Sorrentino had a void in her heart that she wanted to fill.
“Joe and I had a great marriage,” Sorrentino said. “We were best friends. We worked together. After 25 years we still liked each other. We didn’t need other people in our life. That’s where it got dangerous.
“It’s not that you want a relationship,” she continued. “It has nothing to do with being sexual. It has to do with companionship, a friend, someone you want to be with.
“You get so caught up with it after it’s gone. You’re still in husband-wife-family mode, and it’s taken away from you. You want that again.”
Sorrentino now realizes that people who are widowed, especially if their marriage was good, are at risk.
“You’re not making rational decisions,” she said. “I wish I had somebody that had been through it. You’re really not as ready as you think you are. You’re mourning. You’re still adjusting to the new norm. That’s where I made the mistake.
“I trusted him,” Sorrentino said. “But he wasn’t my husband and I should have never trusted him that way.”