Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Elderly Exploitation
Here in South Florida, criminals often target the elderly. But investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the story one man who won't get the chance to exploit anyone else for a very long time. It's this week's Carmel on the Case.
WSVN -- The last time Luis Lacasse was in the courtroom, he got sentenced to 183 years in state prison for what he did to Teodoro Vega.
This time he was back before the same judge and his victim, trying to get his hands on money he had in his pocket the day he was arrested.
Luis Lacasse: "We're good friends."
It was late in 2004 when Miami-Dade detectives busted Lacasse.
Luis Lacasse: "I haven't made a mistake. I don't know what's going on."
Carmel Cafiero: "You're being charged with -- among other things -- exploitation of the elderly. You didn't take advantage of this elderly man?"
Luis Lacasse: "No, I didn't, and I don't have anything to talk about the case."
At the time, Vega -- then 82 years old -- said he had good credit and money in the bank before he met Luis Lacasse.
Afterwards, his credit was ruined and his bank account empty.
Carmel Cafiero: "What kind of man does this to an elderly person?"
Det. David Colon: "Someone who has no heart and no feelings for anybody else."
Detective David Colon investigated the case and also translated for Vega.
Teodoro Vega: "He said he was a lawyer, so I thought it was."
Vega told authorities Lacasse used this card to convince him he was an attorney.
Thinking he was going to be sued over a minor traffic accident, he wrote checks to Lacasse for bogus legal fees.
Detectives say once Lacasse stole Vega's identity he went on a spending spree.
He bought not one but two luxury cars and ran up tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards.
Det. David Colon: "They tried to sell his house, so he's lucky that he's still living in this house, and God knows how many other things that are out there that we have not been able to find."
Police and prosecutors found enough to convict Lacasse of 26 counts of elderly exploitation, theft from the elderly, identity theft and practicing law without a license.
Teodoro Vega: "He left me without a dime."
Through an interpreter, Teodoro Vega recently testified as Lacasse tried to keep the $1,100 he had in his pocket the day of his arrest, instead of paying it as part of his restitution to Vega.
Luis Lacasse: "And that's an issue that I should be entitled to receive those funds because that's money I had to pay bills with."
Acting as his own attorney, Lacasse failed to convince Judge Diane Ward that he was entitled to anything.
Earlier she had sentenced him to the long prison term -- this time, she ordered him to pay his victim.
Judge Diane Ward: "So that comes out to $37,937.22."
Judge Ward then ordered Lacasse to pay credit card charges and legal fees that all add up to nearly $100,000.
Realistically, most of the money may never be collected, but there's a message here.
Nina Vivenzio: "I think Judge Ward and the Miami-Dade criminal justice system has spoken and has spoken loudly about this kind of offense."
There is a happy ending for Vega, who is now 84 years old.
Nina Vivenzio: "This is your original warranty deed."
Prosecutor Vivenzio returned the deed to his condo, as Lacasse waited to be returned to his jail cell.
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