Between bail reform and COVID-related limits on jail admissions, Lyndhurst police reluctantly released a borough woman who they said ripped off an elderly resident. Sure enough, she went out and did it again, they said.
The first time, they said, Melissa Kaups befriended a 78-year-old woman who didn’t know that she had a drug-related criminal history stretching back more than 20 years.
Police arrested Kaups last week after she stole two sterling silver necklaces from the victim’s bedroom dresser, Detective Lt. Vincent Auteri said. She was processed and released on theft charges pending further investigation, he said.
Then police got another call.
Kaups struck closer to home this time, victimizing a 91-year-old neighbor, Auteri said.
Alerted by another neighbor who saw Kaups coming from the elderly man’s home, Detectives Chris Cuneo and William Kapp went to check on his well-being.
The new victim acknowledged that he’d “made [Kaups’s] acquaintance recently and that she’d been in his home several times,” Auteri said.
Another resident was able to describe her, as well, the lieutenant said.
Loved ones checked and found $260 in cash missing and $680 in bogus credit card charges, he said.
Kapp went to several local businesses and watched surveillance video of Kaups using the cards, Auteri said.
She eventually returned to the victim’s home and put the cards back before he could realize that they were missing, the lieutenant said.
“We feared that she would seek to take advantage of another unsuspecting senior citizen following her release,” Auteri said. “Unfortunately, our fears came to reality.”
Police re-arrested Kaups on Saturday.
This time, however, they charged her with 23 combined counts involving credit card theft and use.
They also sent her to a secure unit at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, instead of the county lockup, out of concerns that she might harm herself.
A first appearance will be held in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack once she’s deemed fit to be discharged from the hospital.
Meanwhile, authorities asked citizens to check with elderly loved ones, friends and neighbors to see whether they'd been suddenly befriended by Kaups or any other strangers. Tell them to be aware of who comes and goes and to always lock their doors.
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