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In deal, man pleads no contest to elderly exploitation charge

Larry Argo convinced a jury in 1995 that he was innocent of a charge that he stole more than $100,000 from an elderly insurance client.

His attorney told jurors that the money Argo received was a gift from a woman who regarded him as her dutiful son.

Monday, Argo declined to make the same claim of innocence before a second jury on a charge that he stole up to $20,000 from another client.

Instead, he pleaded no contest on a charge of exploitation of the elderly in exchange for a 10-month jail term and four years of probation. If convicted at trial, he faced a possible state prison sentence.

In exchange for the plea, Assistant State Attorney Scott Andringa agreed to drop a separate grand theft count.

Andringa charged that Argo took more than $20,000 from an elderly and senile widow named Irene Karlsson by exploiting his relationship as her trusted insurance agent.

Karlsson died in March 1996 at age 90.

At the time of his arrest on a charge he exploited Karlsson, Argo lived in a home on Vortex Avenue in Port Richey that was inextricably linked to his association with her.

In 1993, Karlsson gave him the home, which was next to her own house.

Argo had said that Karlsson's relatives did not mind that the home had been given away as a gift. But he said that they later soured on him and pressured police into arresting him.

Karlsson described Argo to authorities as her "boyfriend."

She and Argo stayed close even after he was charged with the crime that a jury later acquitted him on _ stealing more than $100,000 from Betty Marks.

Authorities say that Karlsson helped Argo with his legal fees for his defense against a charge that he stole from Marks.

Argo was acquitted, but not because he didn't take the $100,000 from Marks. He admitted that he did.

His attorney argued at trial that the money was a gift from Marks. And the state could not prove that Argo knew she was senile when he pocketed her money.

Several of Karlsson's relatives planned to attend the trial this week but did not object to the plea deal.

As a condition of his plea, Argo also must not accept anything but reasonable compensation for services rendered to anyone older than 60. Those services won't include anything dealing with insurance.

The state has suspended Argo's license as an insurance agent.

And he may not accept any gifts at all from anyone older than 60 or from anyone acting on behalf of anyone older than 60.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.

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