BY JOE OLENICK
Niagara Gazette — A Barker general contractor and business owner is facing up to four years in state prison, after admitting Thursday he took 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 Thursday in Niagara County Court to fourth-degree larceny, a class E felony and promised to pay back $562,886.65 in restitution. The plea also includes an order of protection and Heitzenrater agreed to revoke any claim he had on the victim's estate or property.
He returns for sentencing on Jan. 10.
His wife, Tara Heitzenrater, was not prosecuted but the couple will be forced to sign over any property they own jointly as part of the plea. That includes three properties in the Barker area, including their house and two businesses, the Heartland Quilt Shop and Ken’s Eats and Treats. Prosecutors said the money was used for these businesses.
Heitzenrater will be required to mortgage and eventually sell all three properties to pay restitution. In addition, he will have to make monthly payments to repay the money he stole from his victim’s estate.
The 89-year-old victim, also of Barker, has been moved into assisted living due to his deteriorating health, said Jill Plavetzki, a court-appointed guardian for the victim's estate.
She told Judge Sara S. Farkas that in March 2010 the victim 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 the victim’s accounts and left nothing for his family, Plavetzki said.
Money was moved out of the victim's accounts and into his own accounts for personal expenses.
“He said I could use the money. I had promissory notes, I guess they weren't good enough,” Heitzenrater said in court.
“Did he give you permission to take nearly a million dollars and leave him destitute?” Farkas asked.
Plavetzki said the victim 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.