Grandson Robs Grandmother to Feed Heroin Habit

Audrey Alben, a New Jersey retired bookkeeper, moved in with her son, Vance Willard, in 2010, to try and consolidate their living expenses. Alben receives a modest pension and Social Security checks, but son Vance had no source of steady income.

About four years later, when Alben’s grandson Stephen also moved into the home, the thefts began. Alben believes that first, her grandson somehow got $10,000 from her bank account (though how he accomplished this was not disclosed). It was only after those funds were exhausted, she said, that her things started disappearing.

But Alben denies that son Vance was involved. “My son hates stealers. As a kid, he wouldn’t even take a candy bar.”

Detectives discovered that the taken items had eventually been sold on Craigslist. They were especially baffled when the refrigerator disappeared, visiting daily to see if it was returned. Alben had to borrow a mini fridge from a friend.

Both Vance and Stephen Willard have been charged with elder abuse and fencing (of stolen goods). Local police Detective Sgt. William Duran would not comment on Stephen’s drug abuse, as it constituted “an on-going investigation.”

Police were initially put on to the scheme when a neighbor’s home was robbed, which detectives discovered by following a trail of blood from a broken window in Alben’s garage. Stephen, with the help of his father, burgled the house, apparently looking for more goods they could sell online.

Heroin addiction, though overshadowed by the opioid crisis, remains a severe problem. There is often a greater stigma attached to heroin addiction since it’s not a “prescription drug,” which offer OxyContin and other opioids an air of “respectability,” since they are prescribed by doctors! Heroin is one of the hardest opioid-based drugs to kick, with users often starting on prescription drugs.

Find out the facts from the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services website, HHS.GOV/opioids.

To get help for yourself, a family member or someone else you know who may have a heroin problem, contact the American Addiction Centers for help. Call them now at 888-986-7158.

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