mrs stewartA woman who has been on the run for over four years after cheating an elderly Gold Coast woman out of her home has finally faced court. Francesca Marzella fled to Europe after swindling 89-year-old Marguerite Stewart out of her $500,000 Hope Island home.

Unfortunately justice came too late for Mrs Stewart, who died in 2011. Mrs Stewart’s great-nephew David Stoneley described Marzella as ‘despicable’.

In 2008, Marzella befriended Mrs Stewart, who was living in a nursing home and suffering from dementia. She took Mrs Stewart to the bank to cancel the power-of-attorney, which up until that point had been held by Mr Stoneley.

A week later, Marzella took Mrs Stewart visited a justice of the peace to have the home signed over into her own name. She then sold the home for $350,000 on the Internet, moved the money overseas and then fled.

Marzella was sentenced to five years jail in the Southport District Court. The crown prosecutor said it was an aggravating feature that Marzella preyed upon an elderly lady with dementia, adding that Marzella had likely used her real estate agent’s training and knowledge to exploit Mrs Stewart.

Marzella no longer has the money and could not pay restitution to the family of Mrs Stewart. Judge Deborah Roberts said in her sentencing remarks:

“The amount of remorse I’m a bit cynical about because of your decision to abscond and the fact that you dissipated the money. There’s been no offer of restitution.”

A caregiver suddenly becoming closer to an older person in order to take advantage of them is a common type of elder financial abuse.

Other ways in which you can spot elder abuse include:

  • Money going missing
  • Signatures being forged
  • A power of attorney or other legal document is signed over to someone else
  • There is pressure to change the will
  • Using property or possessions without permission

Who usually perpetrates elder abuse?

The most common perpetrators of elder financial abuse are family members, but can also be caregivers, neighbours and advisers.

Older people who are most at risk of experiencing financial abuse may be:

  • Isolated
  • Lonely
  • Have recently lost a spouse or family member
  • Physical or mental disabilities
  • Lack of familiarity with financial matters

We are experienced in dealing with elder abuse and the law for older Australians.

If you suspect elder abuse, contact us today for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation.