Special agent testifies in elder theft hearing

LIMA — A special agent with the investigative arm of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office testified Friday in Allen County Common Pleas Court in a case involving a Lima man’s alleged illegal appropriation of funds.

Joseph Vaske, 33, of Lima, is charged with theft from a person in a protected class, a first-degree felony. An indictment returned by a grand jury alleges Vaske illegally deprived another — in this case his father — of funds “totaling $150,000 or more.”

Tiffany Najmulski, an agent with the attorney general’s office, testified during a suppression hearing Friday that she initially became involved in the financial investigation at the request of the Wapakoneta Police Department.

During her investigation, Najmulski told Judge Jeffery Reed, it was learned that Vaske had illegally cashed his father’s checks from the government and had deposited the funds into his own account.

The agent said the case involves “mostly Social Security checks.”

Najmulski said she and an agent from the attorney general’s Medicare-Medicaid Fraud Unit went to Vaske’s home on Feb. 18, 2021, in an attempt to speak with him. She said Vaske initially denied his true identity but eventually agreed to speak with the agents. The recorded interview took place in Najmulski’s vehicle.

Attorney Steve Chamberlain from the Allen County Public Defenders Office earlier this month filed a motion with the court to suppress statements made by Vaske to investigators. Chamberlain alleged that Vaske’s Fifth and Fourteenth rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated when he was not advised of his right to remain silent or to have an attorney present.

Najmulski testified that Vaske was never under arrest or detained against his will. She said the Lima man can be heard on the recorded interview acknowledging that his participation in the interview was voluntary.

A copy of the interview was submitted as evidence and Reed took the matter under advisement.

A jury trial in the case is set for April 9.