House painter ready to plead guilty to thefts

Clifton Will­son is ac­cused of steal­ing money from his em­ploy­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER >> The at­tor­ney for a house painter who au­thor­i­ties said stole al­most $1 mil­lion from his wealthy em­ploy­ers said his client is ex­pected to plead guilty to charges in the case later this month. Chris­tian Hoey, who be­gan rep­re­sent­ing Clifton Will­son only re­cently, told the judge over­see­ing the case that the mat­ter would likely be re­solved as soon as his client can meet resti­tu­tion claims put forth by the pros­e­cu­tion.

“This will not be a trial, I can as­sure the court,” Hoey, of Paoli, told Judge Phyl­lis Stre­i­tel dur­ing a sta­tus up­date on the case Mon­day as Will­son sat in the court­room. Hoey said that he and As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Basil Joy, the prose­cu­tor in the case, were dis­cussing what the amount of money Will­son would be re­quired to pay back, and how that would be ac­com­plished; he did not say whether any plea agree­ment that Will­son would en­ter would in­clude jail time.

The case was con­tin­ued un­til Nov. 28. Will­son, 35, of Rad­nor was em­ployed as a part-time painter at a pic­turesque horse farm tucked into the rolling hills of Wil­lis­town when he was ar­rested in May, ac­cused of steal­ing more than $900,000 from the own­ers of the Heart­wood Farm, the 72-acre es­tate of Es­ther and Paul Gan­sky, a cou­ple with deep roots in the eques­trian life of the Up­per Main Line. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties, Will­son re­port­edly stole blank checks from the cou­ple while he worked at the es­tate from May 2014 to Fe­bru­ary 2016.

He would al­legedly write his name on the check and forge the sig­na­ture of Es­ther Gan­sky, and then de­posit the checks into his bank ac­count. Over a pe­riod of sev­eral months, Will­son then al­legedly used the money he stole to fund a lav­ish lifestyle, far be­yond what the nor­mal in­come of a part-time painter paid $900 a week would af­ford. He bought sev­eral lux­ury cars, in­clud­ing two Maser­atis, jew­elry, ex­pen­sive va­ca­tions and even pri­vate school tu­ition for his chil­dren. By the time he was caught by Es­ther Gan­sky, who dis­cov­ered the fraud­u­lent checks in Fe­bru­ary, Will­son had taken $927,100 from the cou­ple.

By the time he was ar­rested, he had only $188,000 left in his bank ac­count, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint. When po­lice con­fronted Will­son about the thefts in March, they said he con­fessed and

told them how he had com­mit­ted the crimes and what he spent the money on. He was charged with theft by un­law­ful tak­ing, re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty, forgery, ac­cess de­vice fraud, and deal­ing in the pro­ceeds of un­law­ful ac­tiv­ity.

Hoey is Will­son’s third at­tor­ney. Harry Fein­berg of Philadel­phia rep­re­sented him when he was

first ar­raigned. Un­til re­cently, he was rep­re­sented by at­tor­ney Daw­son R. Muth of West Ch­ester. But Hoey took over the case when Muth be­came a part­ner with the firm of Lamb McERlane, which rep­re­sents the Gan­skys.

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