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A San Jose couple was sentenced Friday for “sweetheart” and psychic scams that cost one victim his life savings and the other her retirement fund, according to the district attorney’s office.Shirley Stanley, 48, and her common-law husband Anthony Costello, 43, were both convicted on charges of theft from an elder and theft by false pretense. Costello was also convicted of contracting without a license, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard said.
The district attorney’s office became aware of the fraudulent activity when a brother of an elderly male victim reported suspicions of a “sweetheart scam.” Stanley reportedly met the victim, an elderly, single man in poor health who lived with his mother, in 2007 after admiring his car in a post office parking lot, Bourlard said. After gaining the man’s trust, Stanley convinced the man that her young children needed money for operations.
Stanley and the man later became engaged, and Stanley succeeded in conning him out of $200,000, Bourlard said.Investigators also found that Stanley and Costello had conned a San Jose woman out of more than $100,000 over three years in exchange for exorcising the evil spirit of her dead former boyfriend, according to Bourlard. As part of that scam, Stanley told the woman that the spirit was haunting her and her current boyfriend.
She convinced the woman to buy premium bottles of alcohol and expensive perfume under the pretense that the items would be donated to a church. However, when investigators served a search warrant of Stanley’s home, they found the items there, Bourlard said. Investigators also discovered that in 2008, Costello had posed as a licensed contractor, and charged thousands of dollars for defective patios he built.
Stanley was sentenced to five years in prison and Costello was sentenced to one year in county jail with three years probation. The district attorney’s office and the Santa Clara County Financial Abuse Specialist Team were able to freeze the suspects’ bank accounts to protect the funds for restitution, Bourlard said.The male victim, who Bourlard said was “devastated” to learn of the fraud, was paid $236,000 in restitution.
The female victim, who Bourlard said was also “mourning the loss of a friend” in Stanley has received $43,000. Bourlard said repaying the remainder of the money was a condition of Costello’s parole.Bourlard encouraged anyone who thinks they or someone they love might be the victim of a “sweetheart scam” to call the police, district attorney’s office, or Adult Protective Services.
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