WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Police in Wilkes-Barre Township are on the hunt for Marlena Rejniak of Nanticoke.
The search comes after staff at the Highland Park Senior Living told police she was stealing from residents. They worked together to catch her in the act.
“Informed me that they were placing a camera in a deceased person's room, so I provided bait, money, and jewelry, and we caught Marlena Rejniak taking the money out of the room,” Detective Robert Capparell said.
Investigators say Rejniak fled after being questioned by police. Detectives then posted information about the case on Facebook, which they say led to tips about possible crimes dating back several years.
“And it turns out that she had pawned an exorbitant amount of jewelry over that last, it goes back to 2013, actually,” Capparell said.
“Yeah, put her face out there, and if anybody sees her, they should absolutely call someone, absolutely,” Tina Pockevich of Hunlock Creek said.
Police in Wilkes-Barre Township tell Newswatch 16 they suspect this woman has not just taken from patients in senior care facilities, she's also befriended seniors in the community, gone into their homes, and taken items from there, too.
“She was acting as a housekeeper for people. She was befriending elderly people, taking money off of them, and she was also doing home health work, taking care of people who were sick,” Capparell said.
“That takes a sick kinda person to do something like that. Especially to old people,” Pockevich said.
So far, police have counted more than 300 items pawned, including close to 60 wedding rings.
"Things that probably mean a lot to them most likely, too. That's sad. That's really sad," Pockevich added.
"They'd be forced to do something like that, it's terrible. That's taking advantage of old people. It's awful," said Thomas Himlin of Plains Township.
The Area Agency on Aging has some tips for seniors about how to deal with personal caregivers:
- Do not share personal information with individuals you do not know.
- Talk with trusted family or friends before making any commitments.
- Do not develop personal relationships with professional staff providing care in your home.
The agency also recommends asking potential caregivers for references to try to avoid hiring someone who may steal from you or your loved ones.
So far, Rejniak is only charged with the theft at Highland Park Senior Living.
Police believe she has fled the area.
Anyone who believes she stole from them or from family or friends is asked to contact Detective Robert Capparell.