NEWS RELEASE    FROM:  
Stephen Gibbons, Assistant District Attorney   CONTACT PERSON:
Cindy Seeley Hendrickson, Deputy District Attorney
Elder Fraud Unit
(408) 792-2551   For release on May 22, 2006     CON ARTISTS BALESTRERI AND WELZ CONVICTED OF FIRST DEGREE BURGLARY   On Friday, May 19, 2006, a  Santa Clara County jury returned guilty verdicts against Scott Andrew James Balestreri, 48, and Ruth Helen Welz, 61, for first-degree burglary and elder theft for defrauding an 84-year-old San Jose man out of over $6,000.00 after posing as potential buyers at an open house the victim was hosting in Sunnyvale. The defendants had convinced the victim that they would buy the $879,000.00 home for cash once they sold Balestreri’s $3 million home in Los Altos. The ruse involved Balestreri telling the victim he was going through a difficult divorce and his wife was delaying the sale of his home. Over a period of five months beginning in August 2005 the victim gave the defendants over $6,500.00 in cash, payments for hotel rooms, rental cars and eventually an apartment – all in an effort to keep the deal alive.   Eventually the victim became suspicious and began investigating some of the defendants’ claims. He learned the defendants did not own property in Los Altos and had been the subject of a Mercury News article concerning an earlier prosecution for similar scams in 2003. In fact, Balistreri met the victim just weeks after being released on parole and Welz was on felony probation for the earlier crimes. In the previous case the defendants stole over $50,000.00 from various individuals after posing as a rich Los Gatos couple building a $3 million home. Many of the victims from the last case testified again at last week’s trial. Their testimony was admissible to prove the defendants’ intent in the current case.   Scott Balestreri now faces up to 19 years state prison and Ruth Wells faces up to 7 years state prison. They will each have to serve at least 85% of that time. They are scheduled to be sentenced June 28, 2006, at 9 a.m. in front of the Honorable Arthur Bocanegra in Department 32 of the Hall of Justice.     # # #  

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