Swindlers pay man $110,000 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Swindlers pay man $110,000

Christina Proctor

A Stateline man who says he was swindled out of his life savings received $110,000 in cash Tuesday from two of the culprits.

After months of playing hide-and-seek with the law, Diane and Steve Yonko finally turned themselves in. The mother and son, both American Gypsies, had Douglas County arrest warrants pending on them since Feb. 3 for their part in a swindle that garnered almost $250,000 from 82-year-old Anthony Brusca. Their alleged accomplice, Margaret Venus Loeo, 23, was arrested March 16, at a civil child custody hearing in Hayward, Calif. The Yonko’s flower shop in Hayward was closed the day after Loeo’s arrest and has remained closed, investigators said.

Loeo spent about a month in jail before being released on bail. Loeo is under house arrest at her mother’s home in Sacramento. Her trial is set for Aug. 25.

The Yonkos didn’t come to make atonement alone. Besides their attorney, they were accompanied by a man who declined to give his name, but who was the bearer of the 1,100 $100 bills.

Douglas County investigators said according to his license plate the man was Robert Amil, a Gypsy businessman from San Francisco. Amil reportedly owns a palm reading shop on the outskirts of Chinatown.

After being booked into the Douglas County Tahoe Jail, Diana, 47, and Steve, 31, were held while investigators verified the money was genuine.

Both Diane and Steve pleaded guilty in Tahoe Justice Court to the misdemeanor charge of obtaining money under false pretenses from a victim over 65 years of age. They turned over the $110,000 to Brusca and agreed to pay $25,000 more within two years.

According to Deputy District Attorney Alan Buttell’s plea agreement, the Yonkos’ sentence of one year in the county jail is deferred for two years to allow them to make restitution. If the Yonkos successfully pay the money within that time frame, they won’t have to serve jail time.

Both Diana and Steve were released from custody about an hour after entering their pleas.

Their pleas leave Loeo to face felony charges on her own. Loeo’s mother, Anna has claimed that the Yonkos used her daughter and are the real masterminds behind the swindle.

Anna learned of the Yonkos’ plea agreements when she ran into them at the Peppermill Casino in Reno Monday evening. The Loeos were in Douglas County District Court in Minden on Monday afternoon for a hearing on Venus’ trial date.

According to Anna, a loud argument broke out between the two families, but police were not called.

“They are walking free, while my daughter is in jail,” Anna said Tuesday in a phone conversation from her Sacramento home. “I can’t deny that Venus was there when all this was going on, but they used her. They used her beauty.”

Anna said there will probably be no plea agreement in her daughter’s case.

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

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

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