Perhaps it was the hands -- too big for the apparently frail woman in the poofy blonde wig. Perhaps it was the dubious expression on the face of the temporary home health aid. But the video that was supposed to help Thomas Parkin prove his elderly mother was alive only sent a Brooklyn, N.Y., jury into giggles, and Parkin now faces at least 13 years in prison for donning the strange disguise in a scheme to reap his dead mom’s riches.
If he gets out after serving the minimum of 13-2/3 to 41 years handed down Monday, Parkin, 51, still will be younger than the mother, Irene Prusik, whom he posed as for six years. A judge announced the punishment two weeks after a jury convicted Parkin of grand larceny and mortgage fraud that allegedly began in 2003.
That’s when Prusik, who was 73, died, leaving behind a brownstone in the upscale Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope that was valued at about $2.2 million. Prosecutors said Parkin could not afford to maintain payments on the building, so he came up with the plan to dress as his mother, convince others she was still alive and begin cashing her Social Security checks and laying claim to the building.
A codefendant, Mhilton Rimolo, 49, who pretended to be a relative, was arrested in 2010 and charged with grand larceny. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Parkin never denied dressing as his mother, but he insisted he was doing nothing wrong by living life as a seventysomething woman with a walker, oversized dark glasses and a bad wig. Prosecutors, though, showed jurors videos and photographs that they said proved Parkin was hiding behind his disguise to renew his mother’s driver’s license; cash tens of thousands of dollars in Social Security and other checks; and doctor her death certificate. Rimolo appears in some of the videos, standing alongside the person prosecutors identified as Parkin.
Investigators had been suspicious of Parkin for a while but got their big break in March 2009 when he and Rimolo walked into the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to claim that the new owners of mother’s home -- which had fallen into foreclosure -- were there illegally. They claimed Prusik was still alive and wanted to sue.
“To the investigators’ surprise, Rimolo and Parkin agreed to arrange a meeting with Prusik at the home,” according to a statement from the DA’s office issued after the May 3 conviction. “When investigators arrived, they found Parkin dressed as his ... mother, wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank.”
According to prosecutors, Parkin got off relatively easy. He could have received up to 83 years in prison.