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Man given probation, jail for bilking woman, 96

Man given probation, jail for bilking woman, 96

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A Tucson man accused of bilking roughly $250,000 from a woman in her 90s was sentenced to three years' probation and 312 days in jail Thursday in Pima County Superior Court.

Within a matter of three days in December 2010, Sergio Alberto Cordova was both indicted and sued in Pima County Superior Court in regard to his dealings with a 96-year-old Tucson woman.

According to court documents, Cordova met the woman while working on her house for his employer in 2006. She later hired him, his mother and his wife to provide services for her, including walking her dogs, doing her grocery shopping, bookkeeping, etc.

In December 2010, the woman's daughter, who lives in Texas, asked for someone to be appointed guardian and conservator for her mother to ensure her mother was being cared for adequately and to protect her assets.

At the time, the woman was living in a home valued at more than $815,000 and had cash and investments totaling $450,000.

On Dec. 20, 2010, Carol Severyn, the appointed conservator, filed a lawsuit against Cordova and his wife alleging the Cordovas wrote checks for more than $150,000 to themselves between January 2010 and December 2010 and had the woman sign them.

"Based on information and belief, the defendant Sergio Cordova threatened and intimidated the protected person into paying tips, bonuses, and amounts for services which had no relation whatsoever to the services provided," Severyn wrote in her lawsuit. "The amounts paid to defendants far exceed any reasonable compensation and constitute the exploitation of (the victim)."

Severyn indicated she expected to find additional questionable checks by looking deeper into the woman's records.

Severyn also claimed the Cordovas didn't walk the dogs, hired untrained and uncertified caretakers to stay with the victim during the day, and didn't clean the house.

"Substantial amounts of animal waste and debris were evident," Severyn wrote.

Three days after the lawsuit was filed, Cordova was indicted on two counts of fraud.

Last fall, the Cordovas and Severyn settled the lawsuit.

Under the terms of the settlement, Cordova agreed to pay the woman's conservatorship $100,000 and transfer three homes valued at $150,000 to the conservatorship. If Cordova transferred the homes and paid $50,000 by March 1, the judgment would be considered satisfied.

Last month, Cordova pleaded guilty in the criminal case to attempting to commit financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He could have received between two and 8.75 years in prison.

Defense attorney D. Jesse Smith argued for a sentence of probation, saying Cordova has paid the $50,000 sum and has no criminal record. He also told Judge Jane Eikleberry he thought his client might have been acquitted at trial because they have evidence the woman gave the Cordovas the money as gifts.

The woman continued to call Sergio Cordova long after he was barred from working with her, Smith also noted.

In a letter to the judge, Smith wrote the woman "was very wealthy and the sums he received, while large, in no way jeopardized her lifestyle, health, etc."

Assistant Arizona Attorney General Doug Clark said the woman's savings were considerably depleted.

The woman, who is now nearly 97, has said she didn't want the case prosecuted, but she suffers from dementia and other issues, Clark said.

Cordova will be allowed to serve his 312 days in jail two days per week. He will also be able to work during the day and return at night.

His jail term begins June 4.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com


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