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Man says debt paid; relative not so sure

Katie Barr had never met Donald Hughes, but his voice on the telephone sounded earnest enough. So, two years ago, the elderly woman sent him $159,000.

In return, Hughes, 38, promised to help her invest in real estate. He would buy two houses for her that she could then put up for rent.

Hughes did not mention he was on probation for exploiting the elderly.

Barr was a high-heel wearing, Cadillac-driving, bodacious old lady, who refused to act her age. But she finally succumbed to cancer on Aug. 2, at 81.

She left everything to her sister, Shirley Harkins, who came to New Port Richey last month from West Virginia to settle the estate.

Harkins, 60, says Hughes may have taken advantage of her sister. Barr was suffering from early stages of Alzheimer's, Harkins says, which runs in their family.

She is considering a lawsuit against Hughes and has filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office, which is investigating.

Hughes says that he was Barr's friend and that her mind was sharp to her death.

"I would never steal from Katie," he said.

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