A 61-year-old Rochester woman accused of swindling $840,000 out of an elderly couple next door has been sentenced to five years in prison, the Star Tribune reports.
“This level of coldblooded manipulation is beyond what even a normal fraudster exhibits,” U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen
told Carolyn Jean Cassar, adding, “you knew what you were doing to the victims.”
Cassar's lawyers had sought supervised release – no prison time – but prosecutors asked that Cassar be sentenced to 84 months.
Cassar was accused of using the money to go on a European vacation and hiring an architect to build an Italian villa.
Cassar was indicted in federal court in April. She was accused of making up wild lies about why she needed the money. At one point she told the couple she needed to travel to Washington to attend to the affairs of her dead daughter and to travel to Italy to take legal action against a former business agent.
KAAL reports court documents say Cassar stole the money over the course of five years, telling the couple at various times that her heat was being turned off, that her daughter died, and that her ex-husband was murdered. The couple lived frugally and planned to use the money to live independently, KAAL reported. The husband had lived through the Great Depression and the couple had said they gave Cassar money because they remembered what it was like to be in need.
Scamming the elderly is a relatively common crime, although this case was notable for the amount of money Cassar was accused of stealing.
Law enforcement officials urge families to protect their aging loved ones from con artists who prey on seniors. The FBI notes that senior citizens are attractive targets because they are more likely to have retirement money, own their home and have good credit.
Federal officials also note that con artists tend to exploit older Americans, who may be more trusting of strangers – and neighbors.
The National Council on Aging lists the top 10 scams used to target the elderly.
Met Life recently did a study on protecting seniors from financial abuse, perhaps the first large-scale analysis of the issue.