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Dead man's twin, 81, accused of stealing $35,500 from widow

He had the same fleshy face, hairless head, dark eyebrows and trimmed mustache. They were traits the elderly widow couldn't resist.

He was Joseph Hirsch, identical twin to her late husband, Charles, and he moved in to Grace Hersh's home. He then allegedly plundered her savings account of $35,500.

"She was hoping against hope that he would keep Charlie alive," said her daughter, Susan Matlow, 52, of Chicago. "But I told her, "Ma, you want him to be Charlie. He is not Charlie.' "

The twins spelled their last names differently for unknown reasons and were said to have completely opposite personalities. Charlie Hersh was a loving husband of 22 years before his death from a a heart ailment in 1986. Joseph Hirsch dropped in and out of his family's lives, married several times and was a known gambler.

The now 81-year-old moved in to Grace Hersh's home in the late 1980s with a new wife. The wife soon left, and thus began the tense pairing between Grace, who had suffered a stroke, and Joe.

He took control of her checkbook and forged checks worth $33,500 from 1994 to 1996, according to court documents.

Grace Hersh, 76, and her son, Marc Udovin, 47, who now lives with her, have provided police with bank records.

Mrs. Hersh said the illegal withdrawals were not detected because Joseph Hirsch hid her bank statements. She discovered the withdrawals, she said, after a phone call from Barnett Bank, which has refused to reimburse the account.

"He had a gambling problem, a sickness," Udovin said.

Joseph Hirsch is being held in a Broward County jail, accused of violating probation. He also is under investigation for forgery. He is the oldest inmate in county custody.

The probation is the result of a conviction in 1992 for signing Grace Hersh's name to a pair of $2,000 checks.

"I thought he would behave himself," the widow said. "That was my mistake."

Hirsch had been barred from gambling or leaving the country without permission. But sheriff's deputies reported seeing him climb off a gambling boat and arrested him May 21.

Pembroke Pines Police Cmdr. John Nasta said a detective had been gathering evidence in the latest forgeries reported by Grace Hersh and Udovin.

"It's a very involved case," Nasta said. "It's all got to be examined, analyzed, read and compared."

Joseph Hirsch is awaiting a probation hearing scheduled for Aug. 1.

Last week, he sat in a visiting booth, a small man with a face bushy with white stubble. Speaking into a phone in the booth, he offered no denials.

"I did everything for her," he said. "I took her to the doctors. Everything but bathe her. Five or six doctors a week. I even bought her a station wagon so I could get her wheelchair in."