LOCKPORT – A general contractor and business owner from Barker admitted Thursday in Niagara County Court that he drained more than $500,000 from the bank accounts of an 89-year-old man who agreed to make him executor of his estate.
Kenneth C. Heitzenrater, 50, of Hartland Road, pleaded guilty before County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas to fourth-degree larceny and promised to pay back just over $562,800 in restitution. He could face up to four years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 10.
His wife, Tara Heitzenrater – though not blameless, according to Assistant District Attorney Heather DeCastro – was not prosecuted but will be forced to sign over any property she and her husband own jointly as part of the settlement.
The Heitzenraters own three properties in the Barker area, including their house and two businesses, the Heartland Quilt Shop and Ken’s Eats and Treats. Investigators believe the stolen money was used to fund these businesses.
As part of the plea bargain, Heitzenrater will be required to mortgage and eventually sell all three properties to pay restitution.
In addition, he will have to make monthly payments of approximately $1,300 for as long as needed to repay the money he stole from his victim’s estate.
Matthew Pollock, 89, also of Barker, has been moved into assisted living due to his deteriorating health, according to a court-appointed guardian, Jill Plavetzki.
She told Farkas that in March 2010, Pollock drew up a new will naming Heitzenrater as executor and left him his house and half of everything he owned.
“Heitzenrater then started adding his name to all of Mr. Pollock’s accounts and left nothing for his family,” Plavetzki said.
She said he was moving money out Pollock’s accounts and into his own accounts for personal expenses.
“The money from Mr. Pollock, he said I could use the money. I had promissory notes,” Heitzenrater told the judge.
“Did he give you permission to take nearly a million dollars and leave him destitute?” Farkas asked.
Plavetzki said Pollock has about $70,000 remaining and is paying about $4,000 a month for assisted living. She said with minimal medical insurance, he will be forced to sell his home to pay for his medical and living expenses.
As part of the plea bargain, Heitzenrater agreed to revoke any claim he had on Pollock’s estate or his property. He also was ordered to stay away from Pollock.
Heitzenrater also was removed as executor of the will, and a niece of Pollock will serve in that role.