Stephen Gibbons, Assistant District Attorney   CONTACT PERSON:
Cindy Seeley Hendrickson, Deputy District Attorney
Elder Fraud Unit
(408) 792-2551   For release on February 22, 2006     CON ARTISTS BALESTRERI AND WELZ STRIKE AGAIN   On February 21, 2006, San Jose Police Officers arrested Scott Andrew James Balestreri, 48, and Ruth Helen Welz, 61, for first-degree burglary and elder theft for conning an 84-year-old San Jose man out of over $6,000 after posing as potential buyers at an open house the victim was hosting in Sunnyvale. The defendants convinced the victim that they would buy the $879,000 home for cash once they sold their $3 million home in Los Altos. According to their story, Balestreri was going through a nasty divorce and his wife was holding everything up. Over a period of 5 months beginning in August 2005 the victim gave the defendants over $6,500 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 and learned that they did not own property in Los Altos and that they had been the subject of a Mercury News article and earlier prosecution for similar scams in 2003. In fact, Balistreri met the victim just weeks after being released on parole for his earlier crimes, and Welz was on felony probation for the same crimes. In the earlier case they stole over $50,000 from various individuals after posing as a rich Los Gatos couple building a $3 million home.   According to investigative reports, the defendants are a skillful con team with chameleon-like qualities. Balistreri strikes up conversations to elicit information which he then uses to mold his story into one that will resonate with a particular victim. Welz plays a critical role by being there to back up Balistreri’s stories. Investigators fear that the duo has now turned its attention to the elderly. They have moved into a senior living center and it is feared that there may be many more additional victims. The defendants each face up to 9 years state prison and are scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. in Department 23 of the Hall of Justice.   Anyone who feels that they or someone they know has been a victim is urged to contact San Jose Police Detective Bob DeGeorge at 277-4521.   # # #

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