Ex-Council aide held for trial in alleged theft of SS checks

Nancy Gonzalez, a City Council secretary, is accused of stealing almost $25,000 in Social Security checks from an elderly woman who was living in squalor. KATE McCANN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Nancy Gonzalez, a City Council secretary, is accused of stealing almost $25,000 in Social Security checks from an elderly woman who was living in squalor. KATE McCANN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: October 26, 2012

WHILE POLICE were testifying Thursday about the squalid conditions in which they found 89-year-old Iris Galarza last December, Galarza sat silently in the courtroom gallery, unable to hear a word.

Galarza, who is deaf and has dementia, allegedly was victimized by the theft of $30,000 of her Social Security money by Nancy Gonzalez, her nephew's ex-girlfriend, who was supposed to use the money to pay Galarza's bills.

For 32 years, Gonzalez was paid $60,000 annually as a secretary to City Council presidents. She was allowed to retire in July after her arrest on theft charges.

Gonzalez, as Galarza's Social Security representative payee since 2005, had access to the account into which Galarza's Social Security checks were deposited. Instead of using the money to pay Galarza's bills, as she was supposed to, Gonzalez used it at restaurants, department stores, a casino and other locations, prosecutors said at her preliminary hearing Thursday in Municipal Court.

Gonzalez was held for trial on 21 counts, including theft and recklessly endangering another person.

Officer Edwin Correa recounted the first time he saw Galarza, when he was eating Dec. 9 at the El Sabor Restaurant, on Diamond Street near Hancock, North Philadelphia. He said he saw her walk in and that the owner handed her a free bag of food without a word.

Correa said that Galarza's clothes were a mess, that she wore plastic bags for socks and smelled of urine. He watched her walk around the corner to her house, on Hancock Street near Norris.

Galarza let him into her house, which smelled of urine and was dark, cold and full of debris, he said. The kitchen had no fridge, no sink and no stove, and the bathroom had no running water.

There was no light or heat, but there were piles of trash and old newspapers, and bottles filled with unknown liquids, he said, adding: "The smell was just so overwhelming I just had to get out of the house."

Detective Margarita Nix testified that in police interviews, Gonzalez claimed that Galarza had no appliances because they had been stolen.

Gonzalez told police that even though she knew that Galarza's house was rat-infested and that she hadn't bathed in six years, she believed the woman was well.

" 'Her health is great, better than mine,' " Nix quoted Gonzalez as telling detectives. " 'I care for her, and her well-being was important to me. . . . I could not do anything about her hygiene.' "

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