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Rochester woman gets 5 years for bilking elderly couple

A Rochester woman was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for swindling an elderly couple out of their life savings.

Carolyn Jean Cassar, 61, received a sentence 14 months longer than federal court guidelines but two years fewer than what prosecutors had sought.

"This level of cold-blooded manipulation is beyond what even a normal fraudster exhibits," U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen told Cassar, who stood silently next to her attorney. Ericksen added, "You knew what you were doing to the victims."

Cassar pleaded guilty in July to bilking her neighbors out of $840,000 over six years, using ever-more elaborate lies as she asked for increasing amounts of money.

From 2006 to 2012, Cassar borrowed money from the couple in 375 transactions.


"As she earned the victims' trust and discovered that they believed everything she said, her lies became more frequent and more outlandish," Kim Svendsen, assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge.

"As a result of her lies, Cassar was able to have all the things the defendants denied themselves their entire lives, including lavish vacations and expensive furnishings for her home, and the victims were left with nothing," Svendsen said.

According to the plea agreement and other court documents, Cassar persuaded the couple to give her money for travel to Washington, D.C., so she could attend to the affairs of her daughter's death in a car crash, including buying a dress for her burial.

Cassar has a daughter, but she is alive, according to an earlier prosecution filling.

The couple also gave Cassar money to travel to Italy based on the false premise that she had to help bring to justice a former business associate who had defrauded her.

Instead, Cassar spent much of the money for flights to Europe for family vacations and trips to Italy so American architects could study Italian architecture in preparation for building a mansion for her in Rochester. Designs of her new house and copies of records of flights she took were included in court documents.

Over the course of the scheme, Cassar paid back $1,300 to the couple. The judge ordered Cassar to pay restitution to the couple.

Cassar's attorney, Reynaldo Aligada, appealed for a shorter prison term, noting that because of Cassar's age, she would not be prone to reoffend.


Cassar had no comment at the sentencing, and Aligada had no comment afterward.

Cassar is listed as the owner of Big Dipper Design Studio, 303 10th St. N.W., in Rochester. The address is a small, light-pink stucco house with green shutters in a residential neighborhood. 

State records show she opened the business in 2006.

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