– Attorney General Paula T. Dow and
Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor
announced that a fugitive, captured in Florida
after being sought by the Division of Criminal
Justice for three years, was arraigned in
court today in Newark on charges that she
and another woman conned an elderly West
Orange man out of approximately $164,900
by feigning romantic attachment to him and
pretending they needed loans for fictitious
to Director Taylor, Brenda Miguel, 48, a.k.a.
“Girl Z,” who formerly lived
in Newark, was arraigned by Superior Court
Judge Michael A. Petrolle on charges of
conspiracy, theft by deception and money
laundering, all in the second degree. She
was charged in a June 20, 2007 state grand
jury indictment obtained by the Division
of Criminal Justice. The indictment also
charged Susan Frank, 46, a.k.a. “Chicken,”
formerly of Elizabeth, who remains a fugitive
and whose last known location was Texas.
The women allegedly belong to a group of
transient con artists who prey on the elderly.
Petrolle today increased bail for Miguel
from $500,000 to $1 million, cash only,
at the request of Deputy Attorney General
Francine Ehrenberg of the Division of Criminal
Justice Major Crimes Bureau, who is prosecuting
the case. Miguel is lodged in the Essex
was arrested on May 6 in Orlando, Fla.,
by Agent John F. McMahon of the Orange County
Sheriff’s Office Special Operations
and Investigations Division. The New Jersey
Division of Criminal Justice had enlisted
the aid of experts and law enforcement authorities
in bunco squads across the U.S. in a nationwide
search for Miguel. Retired Detective Sgt.
Jon Grow of the Baltimore Police Department,
who is Executive Director of the National
Association of Bunco Investigators, provided
extensive assistance in those efforts. Miguel
was returned to New Jersey on June 28 by
the U.S. Marshals Service and turned over
to Lt. James MacInnes and Detective Cheryl
Smith of the Division of Criminal Justice.
Susan Meier, Extradition Secretary for the
Division of Criminal Justice, assisted in
the efforts to return Miguel to New Jersey.
indictment alleges that between Aug. 20,
2003 and Oct. 19, 2004, Miguel and Frank
stole money from the man, who is now 89,
by tricking him into believing he was making
business loans that would be repaid. They
allegedly engaged in what is known as a
“sweetheart scam” by showing
false affection for the elderly man to encourage
him to make the loans. The women allegedly
used the funds for personal expenses and
have not repaid any money.
introduced herself to the victim, a retired
financial adviser, at a diner in Linden
in July 2003. Miguel, who used the alias
Theresa Pachino, allegedly told the victim
she was a hotel designer and remodeler who
needed financing to complete a project.
She allegedly gave him a business card with
a false address in the Bronx, N.Y. Miguel
saw the victim on a number of occasions,
and he allegedly provided her with cash
and checks totaling about $104,900 for her
2004, Miguel introduced the victim to Frank,
who used the alias Paulina Johns. Frank
allegedly claimed to need funding for a
national cleaning business she inherited.
In October 2004, the victim allegedly provided
Frank with three checks totaling $60,000.
state law, second-degree crimes carry a
maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison
and a criminal fine of $150,000. The indictment
is merely an accusation and the defendants
are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
investigation was conducted and coordinated
by Lt. James MacInnes and Deputy Attorney
General Ehrenberg. Deputy Attorney General
Ehrenberg presented the case to the grand
of the public who have information about
the activities of Miguel and Frank or the
whereabouts of Frank can contact the Division
of Criminal Justice Tipline at 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.
Additionally, the public can log on to the
Division of Criminal Justice Web page at
to report information. All information received
through the Division of Criminal Justice
Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.