Prosecutors seek harsh term for Rochester woman
The two sides could not be further apart on how a Rochester woman should be punished for befriending and then bilking her elderly next-door neighbors out of $840,000 with elaborate lies that paid for European vacations and a kitchen remodel.
Defendant Carolyn Cassar's attorney argues that supervised release -- and no prison time -- is best. However, prosecutors want roughly twice the prison time that sentencing guidelines call for — a total of 84 months — for the woman they are branding "a master manipulator."
They say that would be one month for every $10,000 that Cassar swindled from the frugal retirees, both in their 90s, effectively draining the couple's retirement nest egg.
Both sides lay out their arguments in documents filed last week in federal court in Minneapolis ahead of Cassar's sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Cassar pleaded guilty in July to the long-running fraud, which included sympathy-inducing but false yarns to her neighbors about her daughter dying in Washington, D.C., and her ex-husband being falsely accused of killing her sister.
The scheme spanned more than six years until last year and funded her dream of a multimillion-dollar Italian-style villa that she envisioned on an expansive piece of land in Rochester. She took a Rochester homebuilder and Florida architect, as well as their spouses, on a trip to Italy to study architecture in preparation for the project.
Attorney Reynaldo Aligada argued in his filing that Cassar's age -- she turns 62 on Nov. 24 -- makes her an unlikely candidate for committing any further crimes, adding that a seat-belt violation is her only other legal blemish.
Aligada added that Cassar's home is in foreclosure and that imprisonment would prevent the retired Mayo Clinic surgical technician from reclaiming the house.
While not suggesting a specific sentence, Aligada asked the court to choose a punishment below the applicable guideline range of 37 to 46 months, noting that "a term of federal supervised release has significant potential to deter future criminal conduct and protect the public."
Prosecutors argued for an 84-month prison term, pointing out that Cassar "offers no real remorse," despite admitting to all of it.
Along with leaving the couple's life savings in shambles, Cassar's actions have weighed heavily on the couple's health, the prosecution argued.
"Their health has dramatically declined, and they have only a small fraction of their life savings left to see them through their final years. Today, they suffer from sleepless nights, headaches and other stress-related medical conditions, which they attribute to the defendant's fraud."
The couple, who have been married more than 70 years, saved so diligently "so we wouldn't be a burden to our children," the husband told the Star Tribune in a July interview.
Since Cassar's guilty plea, prosecutors continued, she has been "attempting to manipulate this court" in pursuit of leniency with "outlandish claims" that her ex-husband abused her and her now-grown children.
"This master manipulator must now face the appropriate consequences that will address both her long-lived and unrelenting deceit as well as the substantial likelihood she will reoffend," the prosecution filing declared.