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Painter Steals $900K From Chester County Farm Owner

By Mike DeNardo and Walt Hunter

WILLISTOWN TWP., Pa. (CBS) - A part-time painter at a Chester County farm is charged with ripping off the owners to the tune of more than $900,000.

Chester County DA Tom Hogan describes it as a "crime of greed."

He says 35-year-old Clifton Willson of Bryn Mawr worked as a painter at the Heartwood Farm in Willistown Township. He had access to the owner's house and stole nearly 150 blank checks over the last two years.

"He then took the checks and wrote the checks to himself -- wrote a very large number of the checks to himself -- in amounts ranging from $900 to $18,000," explains Hogan.

He says Willson spent the cash on two Maseratis, a Porsche, a Land Rover and vacations to the Bahamas.

The crime was discovered when one of the owners asked her bank about the $18,000 check.

"This is a gentleman they went ahead and trusted," explained Joel Frank, an attorney representing the couple. "Allowed onto their property, they had no idea this was going to happen."

Willson turned himself in to authorities at 10:30 Thursday morning. He faces a preliminary hearing on theft charges May 11.

Hogan says Willson and his attorney have cooperated with the investigation, and have already paid back more than $500,000. If convicted, Willson could face a maximum penalty of decades behind bars on multiple felony counts.

His attorney, Harry Feinberg told Eyewitness News, in an emailed statement, "Mr. Willson is currently doing everything possible to right this situation. He is deeply regretful."

"You do have a tendency to trust people who are coming into your house as workers," Hogan explained. "You have to realize that even if you trust them, you've got to check."

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