A California woman was targeted in a mortgage scam to take her home then killed in a murder-for-hire plot, sheriff says

A California woman was targeted in a mortgage scam to take her home then killed in a murder-for-hire plot, sheriff says - Crime and Courts - News

Unraveling an Elaborate Scam: A 96-Year-Old California Woman’s Untimely Death and the Discovery of a Murder-for-Hire and Reverse-Mortgage Scam

In a shocking turn of events, investigators have uncovered the details of an intricate and heinous scam that led to the death of Violet Evelyn Alberts, a cherished 96-year-old resident of Montecito, California. This complex web of financial exploitation and murder-for-hire was aimed at gaining control over Alberts’ valuable property through a reverse mortgage scheme. On May 27, 2022, when her caretaker discovered her lifeless body in her bed with a shattered window, little did anyone know that the events leading to this tragedy had begun long before.

The Discovery of a Hidden Agenda

An autopsy later confirmed that Alberts had met her untimely end through asphyxiation, classifying her death as a homicide. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown shared the grim details of this tangled, evil web during a press conference on Thursday, March 9, 2023. The investigation had revealed that Alberts was approached by Pauline Macareno, a 48-year-old woman, who offered to help her secure a reverse mortgage on her valuable home.

However, the situation took an alarming turn when Macareno orchestrated a series of deceitful transactions. Forged documents and fraudulent entities were established to manipulate Alberts’ financial situation and ultimately attempt to gain unlawful control over her property. Macareno was the mastermind behind this manipulation, exploiting Alberts’ vulnerabilities and deceiving her in the most reprehensible way possible.

The Acceleration of a Tragic End

As investigators delved deeper into the case, they uncovered evidence that Alberts had become the target of a murder-for-hire scheme. Sheriff Brown shared that Macareno saw Alberts as an obstacle to her ultimate goal, and the acceleration of the elderly woman’s death was presumably behind the heinous crime.

Just three days before her death, two men – Ricardo MartinDelCampo, 41, and Henry Rostomyan, 33 – had visited Alberts’ home for a reconnaissance mission. This pivotal discovery shed light on the premeditated nature of the crime, revealing that the perpetrators had carefully planned their vicious actions to survey Alberts’ property.

Bringing the Perpetrators to Justice

Rostomyan was arrested in February 2023, and MartinDelCampo was taken into custody on March 5. Both men are currently being held at the Santa Barbara County Jail without bail on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder against Alberts. A third man, Harry Basmadjian, 58, was arrested in January for his role in the conspiracy while already being detained in federal custody in Los Angeles on unrelated charges.

Pauline Macareno had been arrested and sentenced to six years in state prison for fraud related to Alberts’ case in 2022. She now faces additional charges, but the details of these charges remain undisclosed by authorities.

The Heartbreaking Impact on the Montecito Community

Alberts was a beloved figure in the Montecito community, known for her active lifestyle and warm demeanor. Sheriff Brown described her as an appreciator of life’s simpler pleasures, with a home filled with cherished koi fish that she had moved from Beverly Hills. Tragically, her plans to celebrate her upcoming birthday by baking fresh cookies were never realized.

A Grim Statistic and a Warning to the Elderly

In 2022, adults over 60 years old reported a staggering total of 88,262 complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, with a total loss of $3.1 billion – an alarming 84% increase in losses compared to the previous year. California holds the unfortunate title of having the most elderly victims of fraud in the country, with reported losses totaling $624.5 million. This case serves as a grim reminder that vulnerable elderly individuals are often targeted for financial exploitation, making it essential for families and communities to stay vigilant and protect their loved ones.

“The victim was in a financially distressful situation where she had essentially aged out of her savings and she basically had a very valuable home that she lived in, but she had run out of money,” Sheriff Brown explained. “This case is certainly an extreme example, but there are unfortunately often victimization of elderly victims who are preyed upon by others in a variety of different financial ways.”