Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Elderly Victims
An elderly South Florida couple is wondering tonight if anyone cares about them. A man who tricked them out of a lot of money got a big break in a Broward courtroom. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- Sixty-two-year-old Peter Fernandez doesn't look like he could do much damage, but listen to his victims.
Estelita Yeagle: "Oh yeah, he ruined completely our life."
Estelita Yeagle and her husband Leroy who is confined to a wheelchair struggle to keep a roof over their heads, even though at one point their home was paid for in full.
Leroy Yaegle: "I paid it off before my mother died and I was happy. Then this comes along and screwed it up good."
This was an investment opportunity offered by Peter Fernandez. They mortgaged the house in the hopes of getting a big return on their $150,000 investment.
Estelita Yeagle: "If you invest in this and you invest in that, it will take only three months and you will get back all the money with all this big interest."
Estelita Yeagle: "It never happened."
The deal brought criminal charges for Peter Fernandez.
Robert Crespo, Department of Financial Regulation: "This is as bad as it can get."
Robert Crespo investigated the case for the state.
Robert Crespo: "This case is a case involving a first degree financial exploitation of the elderly, along with grand theft, and so, the impact is big. It's as big as we normally get."
Ten years ago Peter Fernandez admitted guilt, got a sentence of 20 years probation with the promise he would pay the couple back at $200 a month.
Leroy Yeagle: "It's been hell. I have to call the probation office all the time to try and get him to pay, finally he just didn't pay at all."
Now Fernandez is going before a judge asking to lower his payments permanently.
Attorney: "He is now receiving social security benefits judge in the amount of $800 a month. The State and I have agreed to ten percent of that as the restitution payment."
He's retired now, and like the Yeagles, on a fixed income. Fernandez lives in a home on a lake in Boca Raton. The State says it investigated and it appears Fernandez does not have the financial resources to pay $200 a month. The new payment, $80 a month.
Judge Bernard Bober, Broward Circuit Court: "So there is going to be absolutely zero excuse if the victim doesn't get ten percent of whatever comes into you."
Carmel Cafiero: "What do you have to say to the Yeagles about not paying them back the money that your originally agreed to pay them?"
Peter Fernandez: "Am I supposed to be on TV like this? I don't know."
Carmel Cafiero: "I'd just like you to answer my question?"
For the Yeagles it is just one more bitter disappointment.
Estelita Yeagle: "We don't have nothing."
Estelita Yeagle: "My husband is crippled up. He cannot do nothing. He cannot work. I cannot work. We are too old."
Too old and convinced the legal system takes better care of criminals than their victims.
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