9/11 victim's daughter swindled for $1MILLION in Dom Rep
www.dailymail.co.uk Elena Ledesma worked on the 93rd floor of the World Trade Centre’s north tower as a maintenance supervisor, taking home a paltry $400 a week to care for her two daughters.



She died during the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and her daughter Shanhellen Jimenez, then 12, went to her godmother Yolanda Reyes to live, expecting a $1million settlement on her 18th birthday.

But Reyes saw Ms Jimenez as a meal ticket, cheating the grieving young woman out of her settlement, and making her buy the Reyes family a car, groceries, appliances, and an $800,000 real estate venture in the Dominican Republic, court papers show.

In a ‘particularly troubling’ court case, the New York Post reports that a Brooklyn judge ruled that Reyes and her eight family members took advantage of Ms Jimenez, who is now living with her sister.

Both are on welfare and working minimum-wage jobs after Reyes took the majority of Ms Jimenez’s settlement and squandered it on flat-screen television sets, a new washer and drier, a $12,900 Chevy Trailblazer, and groceries and clothes for her family.

Yolanda did something to blind me to make me give up $1million in two years,’ Ms Jimenez, now 22, told the Post.

The worst offense, the court papers allege, was the purchase of an $800,000 real estate business venture in Santo Domingo. 

Reyes and her family flew first class to the Dominican Republic several times between 2007 and 2009 to oversee their business – a car wash that doubled as a bar at night.

The ill-fated venture sucked up most of Ms Jimenez’s settlement, but still Reyes continued to throw money at it. 

After her funds grew low, Reye’s goddaughter said she saw a significant decline in the way she was treated. ‘They treated me like I was a slave.

'They’d go out shopping and come back with all this new stuff and wouldn’t get me anything,’ she said.


After the death of her mother, Ms Jimenez’s sister Angelina, then 17, took her $800,000 settlement from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and made a go of it on her own.

Shanhellen, who lived in the same building with Reyes in the poor neighbourhood of south Williamsburg, Brooklyn, moved two floors down with her godmother.

She told the Post that initially, it was comfortable living with Reyes. ‘But over the years, Yolanda brainwashed me,’ she said, adding that Reyes was grooming her to turn over her full settlement once she turned 18. 

‘She would tell me my sister didn’t care about me,’ Ms Jimenez said.
Her sister Angelina said her sister, who was so young at the time, didn’t know the value of a dollar, and did not understand that she owed Reyes nothing.

Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Noach Dear wrote that this case was troubling. ‘Ms Jimenez has already suffered once as a result of the tragedies of 9/11. She should not be made a victim a second time.’

Shanhellen and her sister Angelina hope that they can reclaim the $900,000 pilfered by Reyes, who swears they will get their money back as soon as the property in Santo Domingo is sold.

In the meantime, both sisters are on food stamps and are struggling to make ends meet.

In loving memory: Below Shanhellen's Facebook page shows a memorial to her mother

Go back | Date: 23 Jan 2012
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