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Brandon man again accused of stealing from elderly he was supposed to help

TAMPA — Jason B. Russell used to deliver her oxygen tanks once a week — always pleasant to the widow and her pets.

Gertrude Eastman, 77, didn't suspect foul play until after the former employee of Lifepath Hospice was charged with grand theft Sept. 22.

He was arrested again Wednesday after Eastman and five other Lifepath customers reported their belongings went missing while Russell was coming into their homes as a hospice worker.

"I put my trust where it didn't belong," Eastman said.

Deputies said Russell, 27, of Brandon, had stolen the wedding ring of a terminally ill woman in his care. He was released from jail after paying $2,000 bail on Sept. 22. Eastman came forward in the days following that arrest.

Russell now faces 17 new charges including providing false information to a pawnbroker and dealing in stolen property.

Some of Eastman's time is spent alone in her Riverview apartment with her cat, Trinket, and her dog, Daisy.

She needs oxygen tanks to help her pulmonary fibrosis — Lifepath delivered them. The widow uses a walker to get around, so she usually sat and waited while Russell went to exchange the tanks.

"I'm really upset with Jason because he's giving a bad name to a very good organization," she said.

She noticed some of her jewelry was gone when she got dressed for church one Sunday.

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said her engagement ring, wedding band, her late husband's wedding band, a gold coin necklace and several other pieces of jewelry worth more than $15,000 turned up in a Seffner pawn shop.

She said she's been told she'll have to pay more than $2,000 to get it back. "I don't have that kind of money sitting in my pocket," she said.

Russell admitted there could be dozens of other victims, deputies said.

It didn't happen all at once, Eastman said. She suspects her jewelry was stolen piece by piece.

Another victim, Roger Fernandez of Valrico, told deputies Russell came to his home and his 1965 University of Florida class ring disappeared.

Authorities were able to return that keepsake to Fernandez without any fees.

Anyone with information about this case can contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200.

Brandon man again accused of stealing from elderly he was supposed to help 10/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 10:37pm]
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