Desiree Boltos ‘Sweetheart Swindler’ trial
A sweetheart swindler who prosecutors say used a web of lies, including that she had cancer, to scam more than $1.6 million from six elderly people was found guilty Thursday .
Jurors deliberated about an hour and a half before finding Desiree Boltos, 37, guilty on five counts of theft and one count of exploitation of an elderly person.
The punishment phase of the trial began immediately after the verdict was read but was later recessed to be continued Friday. She faces up to life in prison.
Prosecutors said Boltos teamed up with her common-law husband to con the elderly victims between December 2011 and May 2017 in a con scheme commonly referred to a sweetheart swindler. Her husband, Paul Hill, is also charged in the case and is awaiting trial.
The victims were conned in a variety of ways, prosecutors say. Some thought they were investing in Boltos’ interior design business — a business that didn’t exist — while another believed he was helping pay legal fees and travel expenses for Boltos to obtain a multi-million dollar inheritance.
Danny Ray Barnett, who has since died, married Boltos not knowing that she was already married by common law to another man and gave her money, believing she had cancer and needed it for treatment.
Casino records showed Boltos spent a great deal of the money in casinos, testimony showed.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Joetta Keene told jurors that there is deception in love and dating. She said the so-called victims knew “what was up” and that Boltos’ only fault is that she’s “too young.”
“What’s going on here, and just being real, is what goes on all the time,” Keene said. “She’s illiterate. She’s got a bunch of kids and she’s got a man that beats on her. She figured out a way to make some money. She’s a sugar baby, and she’s got some sugar daddies and a sugar momma and it really is that simple.”
Prosecutor Lori Varnell told jurors, “We’re here because this defendant is a liar and a horrible person” who targeted grieving widows, retired military and those with a diminished capacity because she knew they had money and were vulnerable.
“That’s not dating,” Varnell said. “That’s targeting.”
Boltos did not testify during the trial, nor did the defense call any witnesses.
Though she had been free on bond, Boltos was taken into custody Thursday morning after showing up to court late. She told the court she had gone to a Fort Worth hospital because of a panic attack and also expressed a wish to fire her defense attorney, prompting a meeting between her, Keene and State District Judge Rob Catalano in the judge’s chambers.
The trial later proceeded but Catalano ruled Boltos’ bond insufficient because of the late arrival.
Also Thursday, jurors heard from another alleged victim, 87-year-old Lois Cardin, who testified via video from Florida because of health issues.
Cardin testified she had met Boltos over a dating site known as Plenty Of Fish. She said Boltos went by the name “Lisa” on her profile.
Cardin said the two exchanged calls and letters for several weeks before Boltos came to visit her in Tampa, Florida.
“I was impressed, totally impressed,” Cardin said of meeting Boltos. “She looked nice, she spoke well. She had a great sense of humor.”
Cardin said that over the next few days, the two went sightseeing, out to eat, and shopping for a truck that Boltos wanted to buy while in Florida.
On the night Boltos bought the truck, Cardin said she had stayed outside the dealership in her own car until Boltos waved her in.
When she entered, she said, Lisa (Boltos) had her sign some documents. She said she didn’t realize until a month after Boltos’ departure that she had, in fact, purchased the truck until getting a bill in the mail.
“That’s when I found out I owed money that I didn’t have,” Cardin said.
She said she also later realized that Boltos had obtained her credit card number and made large charges to a Tarrant County auto body shop.