Ind. Woman Admits Stealing Soldier Son’s Insurance Money

May 17, 2007

A woman faces four years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $250,000 from her son’s military life insurance meant for her granddaughter.

Janine Lee Espinoza, a pastor from Portage, pleaded guilty earlier this month to felony counts of theft and welfare fraud in exchange for prosecutors dropping seven other felony theft counts, said Espinoza’s attorney, Garry Weiss.

Under the plea agreement, she will serve a maximum of four years in prison and be required to repay the insurance money.

Prosecutors allege that after Espinoza’s son, Army Spc. Roy Buckley, died in a vehicle accident in Iraq in 2003, Espinoza became guardian of his life insurance policy. The money was to go to Buckley’s then-6-year-old daughter when she turned 18, authorities said.

But police say Espinoza spent all the money, plus $406 in interest, on cars, jewelry, a time share property in Florida, church pews and a baby grand piano.

Her sentencing was scheduled for July 27 in Porter Superior Court.

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