A man allegedly involved with two others in a scam to steal the assets of a Banning senior with dementia was at large Wednesday, his whereabouts unknown.
Anthony Marzullo, 58, of San Bernardino, was charged last month with forgery and financial elder abuse following an investigation by the Banning Police Department and several Riverside County agencies.
On April 12, Superior Court Judge Joshua Knight at the Banning Justice Center signed a bench warrant for Marzullo’s arrest after investigators were unable to locate him.
His co-defendants, 35-year-old Clem Benning Finneran of San Bernardino and 61-year-old Mona Gayle Sterling of Banning, are slated for separate arraignments in the next eight weeks.
Finneran, who is Sterling’s son-in-law, is charged with financial elder abuse, while she’s charged with three counts of financial elder abuse and two counts of forgery.
Finneran is free on a $25,000 bond, and Sterling is free on $70,000 bail.
According to Banning police and the District Attorney’s Office, the now-88-year-old victim hired Sterling to be her caretaker at the Sun Lakes Country Club community in March 2018, and almost immediately, the defendant allegedly engaged in scheme to take control of the dementia patient’s assets.
According to court documents, case workers from the county’s Adult Protective Services Department alerted police in April 2018 that Sterling was allegedly exploiting the victim, leading to a wider investigation.
It revealed that Sterling had convinced the victim to grant the defendant full power of attorney, giving her unfettered access to bank accounts and other assets, even though the woman’s daughter already was the designated conservator of her mother’s estate and had authority to make financial and medical decisions, according to prosecutors.
The investigation pointed to instances in which the victim wrote four checks to Finneran, allegedly at Sterling’s direction, totaling $12,500, court papers stated. The money was for work that he was supposed to do around the house, but he admittedly never got around to doing, prosecutors said.
The victim also deeded over her home to Sterling, prosecutors alleged.
Marzullo, who was then Sterling’s boyfriend, took possession of the victim’s Buick sedan, allegedly without paying her a dime, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said he returned the vehicle a year later, after the investigation was well underway.
Some of the victim’s other assets were also reclaimed before she was placed in a memory care facility by her daughter, according to the prosecution.
Marzullo has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County. Finneran, who is slated to be arraigned on March 29, has a prior conviction for illegal possession of a firearm, and Sterling, who is due in court on May 20, has no priors.