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Marlton car service owner takes personal interest in con woman's sentencing

Linda Jagiela got her first call from Nydia Neubauer four years ago. Jagiela owned a car service in Marlton, and Neubauer wanted a driver. She didn't have a specific destination. She just wanted to be picked up in New Hope in a black Town Car and chauffeured wherever she pleased.

Bucks County mugshot of Nydia Neubauer (FILE)
Bucks County mugshot of Nydia Neubauer (FILE)Read more

Linda Jagiela got her first call from Nydia Neubauer four years ago.

Jagiela owned a car service in Marlton, and Neubauer wanted a driver. She didn't have a specific destination. She just wanted to be picked up in New Hope in a black Town Car and chauffeured wherever she pleased.

To Lambertville, N.J., to get treatment for her dog. To a garage 100 miles away in Milford, Pa., where Neubauer said she had stored her furs. To the Jersey Shore.

Neubauer, who typically traveled with two dogs and a woman she called a maid, painted herself as a rich heiress, Jagiela said. She loved to talk about herself, her Hamptons home, and her celebrity friends.

Then she stopped calling, and her credit card payments bounced. Jagiela learned Neubauer was really a notorious grifter, a so-called con queen who ripped off New York elites.

And a switch went off.

Jagiela began gathering news clips on Neubauer, calling other victims, and distributing her Neubauer's photo to police. She has since devoted hundreds of hours to untangling Neubauer's past and warning others about her, she said.

And when Neubauer is sentenced Tuesday in Bucks County Court for her latest scams - soaking locals for more than $100,000 in jewelry, real estate, clothes, and car rentals - Jagiela will be there, angling for a gallery spot like the one she's grabbed at previous hearings, close enough to see Neubauer's face when judgment finally comes.

"I want to make sure that she goes to jail," Jagiela said. "And I want to make sure she stays in jail."

Every community sees its share of con artists and grifters, and victims often become personally interested in how cases unfold, prosecutors say.

Jagiela lost only about $3,500 to Neubauer. Still, her story offers a glimpse into what happens when a victim becomes motivated to seek justice.

"I'll probably keep an eye on her for the rest of my life," Jagiela, 48, said during an interview over an iced drink at a Starbucks in Marlton. If not, "she will do this again and again and again."

Neubauer pleaded guilty in December to charges including identity theft, bad checks and forgery. But she was "not your typical criminal," Bucks County Assistant District Attorney Jay Karsch said.

Short with long, strawberry blond and gray hair, Neubauer, 66, drew headlines a decade ago as an interloper on the Manhattan social scene. Using aliases including Nydia Reeves, she allegedly duped the likes of socialite and philanthropist Denise Rich and the nephew of fashion giant Tommy Hilfiger.

Bucks County was new - and fertile - ground for her in 2010.

Claiming to be entitled to a fortune, Neubauer cozied up to merchants in and around New Hope, persuading some she was a millionaire widow with a penchant for the finer things, the prosecutor said. Few saw reasons to doubt her.

"Here's somebody who apparently [claims to have] a lot of money, whose husband died and left her $100 million or so," Karsch said. "So, she wants to buy jewelry? Sure, I'll sell her jewelry."

And when the checks bounced or credit card payments were rejected, Neubauer would blame her bank.

Neubauer's first call to Aries Transportation Group, which Jagiela owned with her husband, came in May 2010. Over the next month, the owner said, Neubauer hired out her $65-an-hour car service about 15 times, racking up thousands of dollars in bills.

Jagiela, who was accustomed to dealing with rich, eccentric clients, thought Neubauer had a quirky but endearing personality.

She recalled the day when Neubauer's limo passed a salon with a "Happy Birthday" sign in the window. Neubauer ordered the driver to stop, bounded into the store to find out who was celebrating a birthday, and added her own congratulations.

"She was very, very pleasant to talk to," Jagiela said - adding that Neubauer was so chatty it was often hard to get her to stop. She was also using the car service so much, Jagiela said, it was hard to turn her away as a client.

Neubauer paid her with a credit card from a British bank with a deferred payment date, or with a credit card from another local businessman - whom Jagiela later learned had also been scammed.

But it wasn't until after Jagiela's company drove Neubauer to the Jersey Shore - for the summer, Jagiela believed - that it became apparent she would never be paid in full.

Around that time, Neubauer was arrested in Belmar, N.J., after failing to pay for a dinner.

The arrest triggered an outstanding fugitive warrant that had been issued in New York, and new headlines about the infamous grifter. She was later transferred to Bucks County, where she's been held since last year after failing to post bail.

Neubauer did not respond to a letter sent to her in prison. The county Public Defender's Office, which is representing her, declined to comment.

She could face dozens of years in prison when she is sentenced Tuesday, the prosecutor said, though she's likely to get less.

Jagiela hopes Neubauer receives the maximum sentence. "She's a career criminal," she said. "This is all she's ever done."

As she plucked the names of fellow victims from news clippings and called to hear their Neubauer stories, Jagiela said, she found a common theme: Many were embarrassed to admit they'd been conned.

But she believes if Neubauer is released, the woman will take advantage of more people - a situation she says she can't tolerate.

"I think everyone should work hard and live the American dream," she said. "I don't think they should steal it."