MISSION HILLS (CBSLA.com) — A 56-year-old house guest was in custody Monday for burglary and forging the signature of a deceased 80-year-old woman.

Patricia “Tisha” Rodriguez was being held at the Los Angeles County Jail on $140,000 bail for allegedly committing crimes following the death of Phyllis Ciocca.

Rodriguez had lived with Ciocca at her Mission Hills home for eleven days before she was found dead on her bedroom floor on Nov. 15.

Ciocca’s son, who was visiting from Las Vegas, did not suspect anything of his mother’s death as she was elderly and had a heart trouble until Rodriguez said his mother had named her a beneficiary in her will.

The family notified police, and officers found thousands of dollars in checks made out to cash, restaurants, manicure salons and motels written in Ciocca’s name, dated after her death.

“We have questioned Tisha Rodriguez,” Lt. Paul Vernon said. “Clearly, writing checks, forging Phyllis’s signature on an amendment to the will are illegal, but more sinisterly, call to question, How did Phyllis die?”

During a follow-up investigation, detectives discovered a storage facility rented by Rodriquez that had prescription bottles with labels in other people’s names. They are now seeking the public’s help in identifying background history of the suspect as they await a toxicology report for Ciocca.

“We’re interested to know if Tisha has taken up residence with other persons, especially if they were elderly and living alone,” Vernon said. “Tisha’s actions could all just be opportunistic crimes after Phyllis died, or they could be much more sinister and pre-meditated.  We won’t know for sure until the toxicology comes back, but in the meantime, we could have other victims of fraud out there, or worse.”

Rodriquez has a criminal history including burglary, larceny and illegal sales of prescription medicine.


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