Anne Carlin was in a bind. Her children’s day care, Arbor Learning Academy, was suddenly shut down by the state amid allegations of drug use by staff and other long-standing problems.
Finding childcare in the post-pandemic world was difficult enough, she said. And now, the West Chester resident was losing her one good option. She turned to social media, scouring local mom groups for leads on babysitters. She found one with immediate availability, and after a lengthy phone interview and a review of the woman’s resumé and references, Carlin hired her.
Little did Carlin, 38, realize that decision would cost her family nearly $8,000 in credit card debt and thrust them into the middle of a criminal investigation.
“The worst part is how this affects your ability to trust and to move on,” Carlin said this week. “We trusted her just like we trusted Arbor Learning, and to have these two incidents happen so close together has really affected my family’s ability to trust outsiders again.”
When Carlin gave Jessica Gadebusch her credit card to take her two children to the Elmwood Park Zoo on Aug. 12, West Whiteland Township police say the 22-year-old saved Carlin’s credit card information to her Apple Wallet account and later went on a whirlwind, six-day shopping spree, spending hundreds of dollars on expensive athletic wear at Lululemon and personal items on Amazon, and booking a $2,000 Airbnb.
She also attempted to make more purchases, including trips with American Airlines, but by then Carlin’s card had been maxed out, and the charges were declined, according to Carlin.
Gadebusch, of Douglassville, Berks County, has been charged with 36 counts of access device fraud, court records show. Neither she nor her attorney, David Moscow, returned multiple requests to comment for this story.
The brazenness of the alleged fraud stunned Carlin. She said Gadebusch was a great nanny, attentive and creative with ways to engage her children. And even after she switched to a less expensive daycare in her area, the two had ended the relationship on good terms.
She and her husband discovered the fraud about a week after, at the end of August, as they were reviewing their financial information during the closing on a new home. The couple contacted a small store where some of the purchases had been made.
From that business, they learned that the purchaser had used the Carlins’ billing information, but had given Gadebusch’s home address for shipping. They contacted the police, who in turn reached out to Gadebusch.
She confessed to West Whiteland detectives that she made the purchases, according to the affidavit of probable cause for her arrest. And she made an apologetic phone call to Carlin and her husband, promising to pay them back.
“I don’t have ill will, and I want her to be able to continue with her life,” Carlin said. “But this whole situation has really made us scared of who people are vs. what they say they are.”
West Whiteland Detective Scott Pezik said the alleged fraud is not uncommon for the department: In well-heeled Chester County, he and his colleagues often investigate thefts from homes by housekeepers, home-health aides. or other hired help.
He tells anyone hiring someone to work in their home to thoroughly vet the candidate using all the tools available, including checking criminal dockets and social media. References, he said, are crucial.
“This just shows you how vulnerable we all are,” he said. “You hire people to work in your home and you trust them. Thieves can come in all shapes and sizes.”
Gadebusch has a preliminary hearing in her case scheduled for October. In the meantime, she is out on $10,000 unsecured bail. And, according to Katie Teuber, still working as a nanny.
Teuber, like Carlin, was in desperate need of child care, and saw Gadebusch’s posting in a Facebook group. Gadebusch was in Teuber’s home in Malvern on Tuesday when another mother told her Carlin’s story. Shocked, she asked Gadebusch to leave.
“I thought I was being punked,” Teuber said. “It’s unsettling — we just tried to find someone who’s nice and will treat our family well, and the fact there is someone out there taking advantage of families is pretty scary.”