Noel Ann De Santis, 45, a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office who worked to end the financial exploitation of the elderly, died Saturday, Nov. 23, of brain cancer at a nursing facility near her parents’ home in West Lafayette, Ind.
Ms. De Santis had lived in Philadelphia for many years before health considerations forced her to retire and move in with family. She was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.
Born in Medina, Ohio, to Don and Gerri De Santis, she moved to the Philadelphia area and graduated in 1993 from Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor. In 1997, she graduated from Cabrini College, also in Radnor, and she earned a law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law in 2000.
That August, she joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney. She covered a variety of cases before being assigned to the elder abuse and exploitation unit, said former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham.
“She really knew how to connect with elder people,” Abraham said. “She was very capable. I was glad to have her.”
Her father said Ms. De Santis was tough but compassionate in her approach to her work. “To Noel, having justice served was more important than winning,” he said. “She befriended many of the victims, visiting them long after their trial was over, making sure they got the services they needed.”
On her own time, her father said, Ms. De Santis visited one of the victims, providing him with homemade sandwiches. On one occasion, she went to the hospital with a victim who had a medical emergency, staying all night until the woman’s family arrived.
Ms. De Santis left the office in June 2016 and was later hired as a deputy state attorney general.
She returned to the District Attorney’s Office in February 2018 to help create the Elderly Justice Unit, her passion.
“In all of my dealings with Noel De Santis, both as an opposing attorney and as her supervisor, I found her to be a talented, hardworking, and truly lovable person,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. “Her fierce dedication to victims of crime, particularly elderly victims of financial scams, lives on in the District Attorney’s Office.”
The unit, which debuted June 25, 2018, was tasked with going after exploiters of the elderly who use sweepstakes scams, phony IRS agents, and grandparent and romance scams to steal money.
Ms. De Santis told The Inquirer of prosecuting a 60-year-old woman, a decades-long con artist, who forced an 87-year-old South Philadelphia woman into a bank to withdraw $600, her entire savings. An alert teller notified security, but the victim didn’t press charges until Christmastime, when she finally told her sister she couldn’t buy gifts.
“Always call the police and file a report,” Ms. De Santis counseled senior citizens.
Ms. De Santis was in the news on Dec. 17, 2015, when she and probation officer Treas Underwood outlined alleged probation violations committed by the rapper Meek Mill in Common Pleas Court.
The alleged violations involved a failed drug test and Mill’s travels to cities either not on his court-approved itinerary or without notifying Underwood. Judge Genece E. Brinkley ruled that he had violated his probation from a 2008 drug and gun conviction and sentenced him to more time in state prison.
The ruling provoked public outcry. On appeal, Mill was released on unsecured bail by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on April 25, 2018. The case ended Aug. 27 when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor firearms charge.
Besides her parents, Ms. De Santis is survived by two sisters, and six nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, 2224 Sacramento Dr., West Lafayette. Plans are pending for a life celebration in Philadelphia. Burial is private.
Memorial donations may be made to the Breathing Room Foundation, Box 287, Jenkintown, Pa. 19046, or via www.breathingroomfoundation.org. The organization helps those affected by cancer.