"Sweetheart Swindler" back in jail | TahoeDailyTribune.com

"Sweetheart Swindler" back in jail

Christina Proctor

MINDEN – Margaret Venus Loeo is back in jail.

Fearing Loeo would flee, Judge Michael Gibbons revoked the 23-year-old Sacramento woman’s bail Thursday after he continued the sentencing.

Gibbons said there was a significant risk that Loeo would not return Tuesday to face a possible 10-year prison term for her part in a swindle that robbed Anthony Brusca of his life savings.

As the news came down, Anna Loeo, Venus’ mother, jumped up, crying, “Why are you doing this to my daughter? They are going to kill her in there.”

Venus Loeo’s request to hug and kiss her own daughter, who was also in the courtroom, was denied. As she was led out Loeo turned and called out to the child, telling her she loved her. Loud crying could be heard as the door closed behind her.

Loeo, known as the “Sweetheart Swindler,” pleaded guilty Aug. 25 in Douglas County District Court to obtaining money under false pretenses from 82-year-old Brusca. Loeo’s potential prison sentence is automatically doubled because the crime was committed against a person over 65. Loeo also paid $10,000 in restitution to Brusca. The remainder of the restitution is yet to be determined, but the sentencing recommendation filed by the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation asks for about $97,000. The Stateline man lost almost $250,000 to Loeo and Diane and Steve Yonko. The Yonkos paid Brusca $110,000 on July 7, and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obtaining money under false pretenses from a victim over 65. They also agreed to pay $25,000 more to Brusca within two years. Their sentence of one year in county jail was suspended pending their payments.

When Loeo entered her plea she said she participated in the swindle because her life and her family were threatened by the Yonkos. Anna Loeo has always stated that her daughter didn’t get any of the money taken from Brusca.

After her arrest, Loeo was in custody for about a month until being released to house arrest at her mother’s Sacramento home with electronic monitoring and frequent contact with a probation officer. Loeo hasn’t missed a court appearance.

Doug Swalm, an East Fork Justice Court probation officer charged with monitoring Loeo’s bail requirements, told the court that although Venus hadn’t violated the conditions of her bail he recommended she be remanded to custody.

Swalm said he has talked with Loeo on a daily basis, and she called to check in with him about three hours before her court appearance on Thursday.

“She gave me indications over the phone that she didn’t really want to be here,” Swalm said later. “There were just too many indications that once she left today she would not return.”

Gibbons was not moved by Venus Loeo’s declarations or her mother’s that she would appear for her sentencing.

“She’ll be in court. I give you my word,” Anna said standing up.

Before entering the courtroom, Anna, Venus, and Venus’ daughter held a prayer session outside. The three got on their knees. Anna continued her prayers outside the courthouse after her daughter was taken back into custody.

At first, Gibbons denied defense attorney Robert Bruce Lindsay’s request for a continuance.

The sentencing was already continued once at the request of Loeo’s other attorney, William Routsis. Routsis was taking part in a weeklong trial in South Lake Tahoe. Lindsay said he believed Routsis was going to handle the sentencing and hadn’t had time to look at the sentencing recommendation.

“If these problems existed notice should have been given earlier,” Gibbons said, adding that Routsis and Lindsay would both have to answer for the delay. Still, Gibbons said the court had no choice but to grant the continuance.

The sentencing is now set for Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 1:15 p.m.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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