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Donation drive started for WWII vet robbed by caretakers

By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 15, 2016

WASHINGTON – Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Ferk was wounded three times fighting in World War II and now he needs some help from the public after being bilked out of his life-savings.

The 95-year-old resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was physically threatened and robbed of $340,000 by two people who were supposed to be his caretakers after his wife died, according to an interview last month with a local community television channel.

A church friend of Ferk set up a GoFundMe webpage this week to raise money for the elderly veteran. The site had received $525 toward its $50,000 goal as of Thursday, a day after it was created.

“It was surprising. Three months after his wife died, we noticed … that going through these entire statements an amount of money just being taken out of his account for personal gain,” said Gil Martinez, a member of the veteran’s parish who came to his aid.

Ferk reached out to Martinez when he learned his gas was about to be shut off and he was behind on his utility payments, which were supposed to be handled by the man and woman who had taken control of Ferk’s finances after his wife’s death in 2010.

Martinez, who also spoke during the television interview, said he built evidence against the two caretakers -- Dian Zeemin, 69, and Joe Rosko, 62, -- who were living in Ferk’s guest house and police issued warrants for their arrest at the end of July.

“They paid no rent, no utilities, no TV, no cell phone,” Martinez said. “Mr. Ferk paid for all of that.”

The two caretakers allegedly took out a dozen credit cards in Ferk’s name and ran up tens of thousands of dollars in charges, tried to take out loans on the veteran’s house and cashed out some of his life insurance policies, according to the New Mexican newspaper.

“These people had threatened Mr. Ferk, and one of the most important questions I asked Mr. Ferk after I took power of attorney is, ‘Has [either] of these two people ever put their hands on him?’ and he said, ‘Yes,’” Martinez said. “That’s when I said I need to call the Santa Fe PD.”

Ferk received three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and two presidential citations for his World War II service, according to Martinez.

He appeared in the community television interview in August wearing his uniform and struggled to remember some of the details of the theft, which occurred over years.

“They would help with yard work and that would be the mowing and trimming of trees and keeping up the driveways,” he said. “I suppose I just trusted them because they were there.”

Anyone who wants to make a donation to help Ferk can go to the GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/2t6usmde

tritten.travis@stripes.com
Twitter: @Travis_Tritten
 

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