A woman who cheated a wealthy Palm Springs widow out of millions of dollars by plundering her late husband’s estate is facing up to 14 years behind bars when she’s sentenced next week.
Marie Hozanne Vanian, 47, of Glendale was convicted Wednesday of financial elder abuse, four counts of identity theft and a sentence-enhancing white collar crime allegation.
Vanian, allegedly with the aid of her fugitive brother, Sharvash “Sean” Vanian, stole in excess of $3.2 million from Jo Pond, whose husband, Robert Pond, co-founded the Palm Springs Air Museum and ran successful business ventures until his death in 2007.
Marie Vanian is slated to be sentenced on Sept. 28 at the Riverside Hall of Justice. She’s being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
During her two-week trial, prosecutors showed how Vanian wormed her way into Jo Pond’s affairs, thanks largely to alleged scheming on the part of her brother, who convinced the victim that he could help iron out issues connected to the trust left behind by her late husband. The Vanians had met and become acquainted with the Ponds through one of the couple’s grandchildren, according to the prosecution.
“The investigation revealed that Sean Vanian told the family he had experience dealing with trusts and other financial matters and could help,” according to a District Attorney’s Office statement. “The investigation showed that his experience actually consisted of selling used cars and flipping real estate.”
After winning the widow’s trust, Sean Vanian persuaded her to retain his sister as her personal assistant, while he managed the trust account, according to prosecutors.
Marie Vanian proceeded to open credit card accounts linked to Pond’s bank assets, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses from shopping trips, travel and other personal pursuits, according to the D.A.’s office.
The defendant pretended to be victim’s granddaughter at one point to ensure access to a luxury store credit card. Prosecutors said she also leased a Los Angeles-area home for her brother in Jo Pond’s name.
Meanwhile, Sean Vanian allegedly “transferred significant amounts of money from her living trust to a corporate account, then made loans to friends, purchased expensive automobiles and spent large amounts of the money on himself, even paying himself a monthly `salary’ of $10,000,” according to the prosecution.
Sean Vanian’s whereabouts remain unknown. He’s charged with financial elder abuse and two counts of identity theft with a sentence-enhancing white collar crime allegation.
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