‘Swindler’ trial begins Tuesday | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Swindler’ trial begins Tuesday

Christina Proctor

On the eve of her trial defense, lawyers for Margaret Venus Loeo are claiming their client should be allowed to join her two alleged accomplices in their plea agreement.

Loeo, along with Diane and Steve Yonko, were accused of swindling nearly $250,000 from 82-year-old Anthony Brusca of Stateline.

The Yonkos were fugitives from justice until July 7 when they turned themselves in and handed over $110,000 in cash to Brusca, according to a plea agreement reached with the Douglas County District Attorney’s office. Both pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obtaining money under false pretenses from a victim over 65 years of age, and agreed to pay $25,000 more within two years. Their jail sentence was deferred for two years to allow them to make restitution.

With Loeo’s trial scheduled to start Tuesday, both sides will be in Douglas County District Court Monday to argue whether Loeo should be given the same agreement as the Yonkos.

Deputy District Attorney Alan Buttell said any deal with Loeo became null and void when it was not accepted by his deadline of noon on July 1. Buttell did receive notification around 3 p.m. on July 1 that Loeo was changing lawyers and asking for a continuance on her first trial date, but he received no communication about the plea agreement.

In a response to the defense’s motion Buttell wrote, “The defendant never accepted or entered into a plea bargain and never acted in reliance upon a plea bargain at any time and therefore she is NOT ENTITLED to bind the state to a rejected offer …”

The defense claims that once Buttell accepted the $110,000 on July 7 he was bound to honor the same terms with all three parties, including Loeo.

The Yonkos’ pleas left Loeo to face felony charges alone. Loeo’s mother, Anna, has claimed the Yonkos used her daughter and are the real masterminds behind the swindle. After the Yonkos agreement Anna said she would not give any money to the court.

“I’m not giving a dime because my daughter didn’t get any money from him,” Anna said, referring to Brusca. “They (the Yonkos) were supposed to pay all the money back, the Gypsies decided that years ago, but not Venus because she didn’t take any money.”

Despite Anna’s declarations, if the defense gets their way Loeo would be required to pay $25,000.

The twists of Loeo’s case, which has been dubbed a “sweetheart swindle” by investigators, continue. On Friday, the prosecution was notified that attorney William Routsis, who was dismissed before Loeo’s first trial, would be returning to defend her along with attorney Robert Bruce Lindsay.

On Thursday, Loeo was arrested again at her mother’s home in Sacramento, where she is on house arrest. This time it was on a warrant from the San Francisco Bay Area for perjury. Douglas County investigators said the California Department of Motor Vehicles was going after Loeo for her multiple California drivers licenses under various names. Loeo bailed out of the Sacramento County Jail Thursday afternoon.

Jury selection for Loeo’s trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in Douglas County District Court.

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

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