BROOKSVILLE — One day last fall, 99-year-old Gil Galioto tried to buy something with his debit card.
The culprit for the insufficient funds, prosecutors told a Hernando County jury last month, was Galioto's caregiver, Deborah Anne Rusin, who had written nine checks from his account totaling nearly $750. Those checks, prosecutors said, had been stolen, forged and written without permission. Bank surveillance also showed Rusin used Galioto's debit card 13 times and withdrew another $660 from his account.
The jury found Rusin, 45, guilty of exploitation of the elderly, a third-degree felony. She faced five years in prison, and on Wednesday, she was sentenced to 3 1/2 years. She will also have to pay a yet-to-be determined amount of restitution.
In an interview with a Hernando sheriff's detective around the time of her arrest in December, Rusin confessed to stealing the money, and prosecutors played the audio of that confession in court. When asked her motive, records show, she told the investigator she was addicted to alcohol and cocaine.
But Rusin would ultimately plead not guilty and maintain her innocence. During the trial, attorney Michael Kenny fought to keep the confession from being admitted as evidence.
Kenny said there was evidence Rusin was coerced by a detective who threatened her husband, who also cared for Galioto, with jail time if she didn't confess.
"What choice does she have but to admit?" Kenny said. "That's a difficult obstacle to overcome, when a jury hears an outright confession."
Kenny called witnesses who told jurors that Galioto had given Rusin permission to sign his checks. Galioto testified that wasn't the case. Kenny said Galioto also gave Rusin permission to withdraw money with his card when they visited ATMs so he wouldn't have to get out of car.
Galioto has since turned 100 and is living in a local assisted living facility.
Kenny said Rusin is considering appeal options.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.