‘Sweetheart Swindler’ makes preliminary hearing
Margaret Venus Loeo will face charges she used promises of companionship and affection to dupe an elderly Stateline man out of nearly $250,000.
The preliminary hearing Wednesday included testimony from the victim, Anthony Brusca, and Sgt. Detective Tim Minister. Judge Steven McMorris found there was sufficient evidence to hold Loeo to answer to the felony charges in Douglas County District Court. She is scheduled to appear Monday in Minden.
Loeo, also known as Venus Milo, in conjunction with Bazil Willious (a.k.a. Steve Milo), and Doris Milo (a.k.a. Diana Yonko, Diana Wayne) are charged with allegedly conspiring to deceive Brusca, 82, into believing that Loeo was emotionally and physically attracted to him. The motive was his money, prosecutors said.
Investigators believe Brusca was the victim of a “sweetheart swindle” perpetrated by a Bay Area American Gypsy clan that includes Loeo. Arrest warrants for all three were issued Feb. 3. Steve and Doris Milo are still at large.
Brusca, who suffers from a hearing loss, was accommodated with a special mike and hearing aid to give his testimony. When asked to identify the woman he knew as Venus Milo, Brusca looked around the courtroom. Low lighting and impaired eyesight forced Brusca to leave the witness stand and approach the defendant’s table to make a positive identification.
Loeo, sitting in arm and leg shackles, cried as Brusca walked up to her and then nodded affirmatively to Deputy District Attorney Alan Buttell.
Brusca testified that during a period of two and half years he gave the trio his life savings and investments in the belief that he was helping Loeo first to get started in business and then to pay for critical life-saving operations to remove tumors.
“I believed what she told me,” Brusca told the court. “I come from an era when we believed each other.”
On cross examination William Routsis, Loeo’s defense attorney, asked Brusca if he recalled any conversation with Loeo where she informed him that Doris and Steve Milo were trying to swindle him and urged him not to give them money. Loeo, wide-eyed, nodded her head in agreement with Routsis’ question and leaned back to look imploringly at the prosecution.
“No,” Brusca replied.
Routsis continued, asking Brusca if Loeo had ever told him she felt bad about the all the money he had lost.
“No,” Brusca said. “She never even thanked me.”
Minister was questioned by Routsis regarding an interview he held with Loeo after her arrest in Hayward, Calif. Minister told the court that Loeo admitted to him that she had never had any surgery and that she had cooperated with Doris and Steve Milo in a scheme to take money from Brusca.
Minister said Loeo claimed it was all the fault of Dino Demetro, her Gypsy husband.
“She said if she didn’t go along with the program that the Demetros would take her children away and whip her,” Minister said.
Minister said that Loeo also claimed that she did not get any of the money taken from Brusca and the Demetros took it all.
Routsis questioned Minister as to any threats made to his client by other Gypsy families while she has been in custody. Minister said a report was made by other female inmates that they has seen a red laser beam coming through a window of the jail.
Ana Loeo, the defendant’s mother who has been present during the last two court appearances, immediately began sobbing at the mention of the laser.
“They are trying to kill her,” Ana said.
Routsis again asked Judge McMorris to lower Loeo’s bail, which is set at $150,000 cash with several additional stipulations.
Routsis cited Loeo’s lack of a criminal record and willingness to be placed under house arrest at her mother’s home in Sacramento in favor of a lowered bail.
Buttell argued that Loeo’s many alias, six of which they are aware of, and lack of a stable employment or residency history makes her an extreme flight risk.
“This person has no distinct identity as we know it,” Buttell said.
McMorris kept the bail as set.
Outside the courtroom, Ana said her daughter has been the victim of the Demetro family since she was kidnapped by them at the age of 13.
“They are the ones who gave her all these aliases,” Ana said. “They have used her and beaten her. The family is in organized crime.”
Ana said ever since she and her daughter were featured in a November 1997 segment on “NBC Dateline” on sweetheart scams her family and home has been targeted.
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