In a case that Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner called "a heartbreaking example of elder abuse," a 42-year-old North St. Paul woman has been charged with stealing more than $220,000 from her mother over a two-year period.

Marsha A. Truskolaski is accused of abusing her power of attorney over her 75-year-old mother's money to pay for vacations, private school tuition for her children and expensive home improvements including an in-ground swimming pool. She was charged Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court with one count of theft by swindle.

According to the criminal complaint, White Bear Lake police were contacted in the summer of 2008 by Norlinda Aspelund's son, Mark Aspelund of Florida, who said his sister was financially exploiting their mother.

Police learned that Truskolaski had allegedly redeemed two of her mother's certificates of deposit totaling $106,000 and used her Visa card to charge $28,000. The money went to pay property taxes, to pay off Truskolaski's vehicle loan, more than $2,500 to a jewelry store, vacations for Truskolaski and her family valued at $14,889, retail store purchases of $25,000 and restaurant purchases of more than $15,000.

When police interviewed Norlinda Aspelund in January, she "apologized ... for the way she looked, stating that she is not able to afford to get her hair and nails done like she used to and has very little clothes or anything else of value," the complaint said.

The alleged victim told police that she moved to an assisted living facility in White Bear Lake in 2005, which was paid for with a long-term care insurance policy that her husband had taken out before his death, her Social Security checks and a small pension from her career as a teacher, the complaint said.

Norlinda Aspelund told police she did not approve or know that her daughter was using her money to pay for private school tuition, weight-loss programs or car payments. She also told police that she could no longer afford to live at the assisted living facility and would have to move to a nursing home and go on state assistance, the complaint said.

When police interviewed Marsha Truskolaski in February, she said that "her mother was forgetful and needed help and she had to sign for purchases because her mother is blind," the complaint said. She said her mother had agreed to pay for the vacation trips, the pool and the home improvements and that "her mother simply does not remember giving permission for all these purchases."

Truskolaski is scheduled to make her first court appearance Aug. 17.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992