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Associated Press, Published July 27 2013

Minn. woman admits to swindling elderly couple out of $840,000

MINNEAPOLIS — A Rochester woman has pleaded guilty to swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from an elderly couple with bogus stories.

Carolyn Jean Cassar, 61, admitted in federal court Thursday to stealing $840,000 over six years from the couple, KSTP-TV reported.

Cassar was indicted in federal court last April and accused of telling the couple she needed money to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend to the affairs of her dead daughter and to travel to Italy to take legal action against a former business agent.

She promised to repay the couple. The indictment says Cassar instead used the money to vacation in Europe, among other things.

In all, Cassar collected $840,000 in 375 transactions with the couple. They are in their early 90s and "despite modest education and jobs . accumulated a life savings of nearly $1 million through their diligence and frugality," according to a prosecution court filing.

Cassar used some of the money to make home improvements, the Star Tribune reported. She had a kitchen makeover and installed "hardwood floors, marble countertops, skylights, custom cabinetry and new roofing," the prosecution filing said.

"(She) purchased over $100,000 in furnishings for her bedroom, living room, dining room and den, at times spending upwards of $500 on a single pillow," the filing said. "Money was no object because, of course, it wasn't hers."

The siphoning of the couple's money was finally halted when two associates at Home Federal Savings Bank became suspicious of the elderly husband's large withdrawals and spoke up.

The employees took their worries for their longtime customers to police, who set up a phone tap of a conversation between the wife and Cassar. During the call, Cassar made further promises of repayment.

Police confronted Cassar, who at first denied and then admitted to years of lying to her elderly neighbors.

According to the plea agreement and other court documents, from May 2006 through September 2012 Cassar persuaded the couple to give her money for travel to Washington, so she could attend to the affairs of her daughter's death in a car crash, including buying a dress for her burial.

Cassar does have a daughter, "however, the defendant's . daughter was alive then and remains alive to date," the prosecution filing read.

The couple also gave Cassar money to travel to Italy based on the false premise that she had to help bring to justice a former business associate who had defrauded her.

Over the entire course of the scheme, Cassar paid back $1,300 to the couple.

Cassar was supposed to go on trial next week. She remains free on bond pending sentence, which has not been scheduled. She faces a maximum 20 years in prison.