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Stealing the dead man's identity

Stealing the dead man's identity

Verdict: Carolyn Herring must spend the next 20 years in federal prison. Photo: California Attorney General X.

A 44-year-old woman stole the identity of an elderly man who died alone, disposed of the body, and stole his property and money. Now she has been found guilty.

Carolyn Joan Herling and her co-conspirators scoured the affluent areas of Los Angeles looking for properties in poor condition. They looked for, among other things, pools filled with algae, or shrubs that grew wild. This is what the California Attorney General wrote about them Websites.

The goal was to find owners who were unable to take care of their properties. In 2020, she achieved complete success with a villa by Charles Wilding in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. Court documents say Herling and her co-conspirators broke in there.

Sometime in September 2020, the man died, and investigators do not know how the man died. Herling and her co-conspirators took possession of the property while the man's body decomposed in the house.

Instead of reporting the death to the authorities, the house was ransacked, and Herling forged documents to make it appear that she was acting on behalf of the dead man. She also took control of the deceased man's accounts.

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Police only began investigating in October 2021 when neighbors reported the man missing. They are said to have received an anonymous tip that someone was exploiting Wilding's identity for financial gain ABC 7.

Herling reported to police as a close friend of the victim and his family and a manager of the family's wealth. It was supposed to be created when the man's mother died in 2017, but it turned out to be fake.

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Herling told police that the man had moved to Carpinteria, a town to the north, but that was not true because the man had died. Herling claimed the man was staying with her friends while she was working on rearranging the house.

When Herling learned of the police investigation, she devised a plan to ensure the police would never find the body. She also bought a phone and paid a man to use it and pretend to be Wilding.

— This is to support that Wilding should have agreed to turn over the property to Herling, the state's attorney says, according to ABC7.

Wilding was listed as heir in another will, but Herling forged that document as well. That would leave 1.7 million for the old man.

State prosecutor Mami Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong said during sentencing that Herling treated Wilding like a cash register, not a human being.

– The defendant's actions were greedy and heinous and caused harm and pain to the victims and their loved ones. There must be severe consequences for people who exploit vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, and my office will continue to work to bring them to justice.

Herling was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $3.8 million in restitution.

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