According to detectives, Patricia "Tisha" Rodriguez, 56, had only been living in 80-year-old Phyllis Ciocca's home for about a week and a half when Ciocca was found dead on her bedroom floor on Nov. 15.
Ciocca's death did not initially raise any suspicions due to her history of heart problems, according to investigators. That's until Rodriguez told Ciocca's adult son that his mother had changed her will and named Rodriguez as the beneficiary.
Ciocca's family informed police and the coroner's office, which contacted the mortuary to put a hold on the body for an autopsy. Since then, police discovered thousands of dollars in checks written in Ciocca's name. The checks were dated after her death and were made out to cash, restaurants, manicure salons and motels.
Ciocca's cause of death remains under investigation. Authorities say there may be other victims.
"We're interested to know if Tisha has taken up residence with other persons, especially if they were elderly and living alone," said Lt. Paul Vernon with the Los Angeles Police Department. "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."
Detectives said Rodriguez has a criminal history that includes burglary, larceny, and illegal sales of prescription medicine. Investigators found prescription bottles in the names of several different people inside a storage facility rented by Rodriguez.
Rodriguez remains in custody on several forgery and burglary charges in connection to Ciocca's death. Her bail was set at $140,000.
Anyone with information about Rodriguez was asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.