Adoptive parents accused of stealing inheritance

Date: 2010-10-23

Prosecutors say couple took $1.4 million from orphaned children

By Jim McKinnon

The adoptive parents of two children who became orphans when their parents died in a murder-suicide in 2003 have been charged with stealing from the children's trust fund to support a lavish lifestyle.

"It's really sad," said District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., referring to how the adopted children of Daniel and Merily Pompa, Dylan and Olivia, have been victimized.

It began in 2003 in Florida, where their biological father, Leslie Young, killed his wife, Lisa, and then himself.

The couple's children were orphaned, but their parents had been successful in various businesses. From it, the children were to inherit more than $1.4 million in insurance benefits and trusts set up by courts in Florida.

Custody of the children was awarded to the Pompas, who relocated the family to Cranberry, along with their own two children. Merily Pompa is a relative of the late Lisa Young.

The couple now live in a spacious house in Ligonier with their biological children, Mr. Zappala said.

The criminal charges were filed in Allegheny County because the Pompas took money from accounts held in Pittsburgh banks.

Daniel and Merily Pompa are charged with criminal conspiracy, a felony because of the huge amount of money, four counts each of theft by failure to make proper distribution of funds and misappropriation of entrusted funds.

They are free on their own recognizance, pending a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Municipal Court.

According to a 95-page criminal complaint and affidavit filed Friday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, the Pompas already have spent the orphans' money "for their own benefit," Mr. Zappala said.

Untouched were trusts for Dylan's and Olivia's education.

The district attorney alleges the Pompas used the money to pay their own expenses as well as the children's, when, especially after the adoption, it was the duty of the Pompas to support the children.

Since the investigation began about six months ago with a tip from an informant close to the family, district attorney investigators and federal agents have found $88,790 remaining of the original $1.4 million. They also recovered $248,853 stored in investment accounts started by Daniel and Merily Pompa with funds they siphoned from the trusts.

"We were concerned about the [Young] children," Mr. Zappala said at a news conference Friday. Common Pleas Judge Lawrence J. O'Toole in Orphans Court has placed Dylan and Olivia in temporary court-appointed custody.

About $200,000 of the allegedly misappropriated money cannot be recovered, because the statute of limitations to file criminal charges has expired on the corresponding dates of some of the counts against the Pompas.

The informant came forward months ago after being disturbed by a discussion with the Pompas who were considering bankruptcy to avoid having to repay any money they might be ordered to repay if convicted, Mr. Zappala said.

The criminal complaint prohibits any attempt to hide behind a bankruptcy filing, Mr. Zappala said.

At least one of the Pompas, if convicted, could face jail time. Mr. Zappala said his office might not pursue jailing both, because their biological children are not yet grown.

"Their lifestyle could not be supported by their [claims of an income]," Mr. Zappala said.

Daniel Pompa worked as a chiropractor. Though his wife listed various business ventures as being potentially lucrative, none showed any profit or investors, Mr. Zappala said.

Over the past seven years, the complaint says, the Pompas took a minimum of $15,000 a month from the adopted children's trusts.

At one point, after the investigation began, the suspects began repaying $3,000 a month toward restitution. But, said Mr. Zappala, investigators had not determined whether these funds were taken from Dylan's and Olivia's $3,000-a-month Social Security benefit.

The items the Pompas are accused of buying with trust fund money include the house in Cranberry, which is for sale at an inflated price, and their new home in Ligonier.

The suspects spent $458,172 to renovate a condominium at Seven Springs. The amount includes $102,165 the couple requested and received when they closed on the property. Mr. Zappala said his detectives are working to determine if the closing fee is a kickback.

The allegations also say the couple:

• Paid $529 for a brass monkey toilet paper holder.

• Spent $15,675 on one home theater system, and more than $7,000 on a second one.

• Paid $3,231 for products from Carl W. Herman Furs.

• Used trust fund money for $26,025 in payments to Mercedes Benz Financial.

• Contributed $1,000 in 2006 to the Santorum Victory Committee.

The complaint shows the Pompas regularly attended Northway Christian Community, donating in excess of $110,000.

One Pompa bank account twice was negative -- on Oct. 1, 2007, by $58.76 and Dec. 3, 2007, by $99.41. At least three overdraft fees of $30 each are part of the spending as well, the complaint says.

In the complaint, the couple told investigators, "We eat all organic," and they shopped at Whole Foods and the East End Co-op.

Prosecutors have not sought to seize the Pompas' homes because they owe more than the properties are worth, Mr. Zappala said.

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