Elderly insurance fraud victim sees justice served in Pasco courtroom

NEW PORT RICHEY — Bonnie Madden has come to court more times than she can count, waiting to see the man who used to call her his second mother go to prison.

Randolph Kahl-Winter was Madden's insurance agent, but more than that he was a friend and confidant to the elderly woman, which made it hurt that much worse when investigators discovered he was ripping her off.

He was arrested in 2009, and since then Kahl-Winter has entered pleas, been arrested again, hired new lawyers and tried to withdraw his pleas. He has always insisted he is innocent, the "victim of a bogus sting operation."

Madden, who lost more than $400,000 in assets thanks to Kahl-Winter's schemes, just sat and watched. Now 84, she brings a pillow to cushion the hard courtroom benches.

Finally, on Thursday, she saw him sent away.

• • •

When Kahl-Winter pleaded no contest in 2009 to charges of grand theft and uttering a forged instrument, his attorney worked out a deal with prosecutors for no jail time. Instead, Kahl-Winter would serve 15 years of probation while paying back the money he stole. Authorities said he systematically plundered Madden's annuities of more than $400,000, leaving her with only about $30,000. He sold her a life insurance policy that carried an $88,000 yearly premium. She cashed in an annuity to pay the first year, and Kahl-Winter promised to pay the second year. It would then be sold, he told her, and they would both make a profit.

But Madden later discovered pages of the policy on which Kahl-Winter had forged her name. The transaction netted him a $52,000 commission.

Madden wanted him to go to jail then, but she didn't get to speak to the judge until it was too late. At that hearing the prosecutor insisted an insurance company was the victim, not Madden, who was mostly paid back her losses.

Circuit Judge Michael Andrews was upset, but there was nothing he could do. He had already accepted the plea. Kahl-Winter walked out of court that day a free man.

It didn't last.

Two months later, in December 2009, he was arrested in Pinellas County, accused of selling insurance without a license. It was one of the specific things Andrews told him not to do during his probation.

Authorities there got a tip from a senior that Kahl-Winter had misrepresented an annuity. The victim participated in a sting operation.

Kahl-Winter pleaded no contest to that charge, too, and was sentenced to two years of house arrest followed by another 2 1/2 years of probation.

A month later, in July 2010, he filed a notice that he wanted to withdraw that plea.

It created a huge problem for him in the Pasco case. By getting arrested and pleading in Pinellas, Kahl-Winter was now exposed to a 15-year prison term in the Pasco case.

• • •

To hear him tell it, his problems were everyone's fault but his.

His attorneys were all incompetent, he told Andrews at Thursday's probation violation hearing. He pleaded in his cases "due to bad advice."

His wife, who was his partner in the insurance business, "set him up" and should be on the hook at least for "aiding and abetting" him.

The Pinellas arrest, he said, was most outrageous of all. He insisted he was just "reading a brochure in a library" — an apparent reference to the sting.

"This is insane," he told the judge. "This is blowing my mind."

Andrews listened. He remembered the case well, he said. Remembered the elderly victim who didn't get to be heard, remembered telling Kahl-Winter specifically not to do anything insurance-related.

The judge's decision: five years in prison, followed by eight years probation.

Kahl-Winter, 50, was stone-faced. He plans to appeal it all.

Madden wanted more time than that, but she's glad he's getting something. And she's confident he'll trip up in probation when he gets out.

"He'll break it again," she said. "He's too arrogant. He didn't do anything wrong — just ask him."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com.

Elderly insurance fraud victim sees justice served in Pasco courtroom 07/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 11:43pm]

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