'I was a sucker,' victim tells Globe
UPDATED, Dec. 4: A 24-year-old Arlington was held on $100,000 bail on Thursday, Dec. 3, after Middlesex County prosecutors alleged that she talked an 84-year-old man into giving her more than $100,000, including money for a phony brain tumor operation.
Anisa Llega pleaded not guilty to larceny in Cambridge District Court, after prosecutors alleged that she lied to gain the trust of the 84-year-old.
"I thought I was saving her life," Donald Hodgins, an 84-year-old widower told The Boston Globe. "I was a sucker."
Town police had charged Llega, who is from Albania, with larceny after she allegedly scammed more than $100,000 from an elderly resident with no family.
Police said Llega began working three months ago as a house cleaner for an 84-year-old widower who was a frequent customer at the Classic Cafe in the Heights, where Llega worked as a waitress. During that time, police said in Dec. 2 news release, she cultivated a relationship with the victim and began to con him out of large sums of money.
The allegations include the claim that she feigned a terminal brain tumor, for which the victim gave her $30,000 for surgery.
Llega also asked the elderly victim for and received money to pay auto payments, school loans and other bills, police allege.
Her attorney said, the Globe reported, that the man gave her the gifts on his own volition, and is concocting the story to take revenge on Llega, because she is soon to be married to another man.
Hodgins said he believed he gave more than $60,000 to Llega; Arlington police estimated the amount at more than $100,000, The Globe reported.
But Llega alleges that Hodgins voluntarily gave her the money, out of kindness, but also because he was attracted to her, the newspaper said.
An Arlington police investigation determined that during the time Llega claimed to be having surgery, she was actually in Miami on vacation. Police believe that more than $100,000 was taken from the victim. Police found and froze several bank accounts in the suspect's name.
Arlington police became aware of the matter after they were contacted by an acquaintance of the victim.
Llega was charged with larceny over $250 by single scheme.
Globe account adds details
The Globe reported:
After the arraignment, Hodgins said in his Arlington home that although he wants his money back, he is sad Llega is now incarcerated.
"I just want to know why she did it," said Hodgins, who the newspaper described as a real-estate mogul.
He admitted that he once felt romantic feelings for Llega, but said he knew he was "too old" for her and that Llega was engaged.
Hodgins said he was convinced that Llega was terminally ill when he gave her the largest payment, a $30,000 check in November. "I was too trusting," he said.
The two met almost three years ago at Classic Cafe, a small diner on Massachusetts Avenue where Llega was working as a waitress and host, Fatos Qari, a current manager at the restaurant, told The Globe.
"Donnie," as people call Hodgins, is a regular at the restaurant and Qari said the duo struck up an informal friendship. "He was very nice. A lot of people like him and a lot of customers liked her."
Eight months ago, Llega left her job to work for Hodgins, the paper said. She would clean his house, provide computer assistance and set up an online presence for his real estate company for a salary of $50,000 and an at-home laptop, Hodgins said.
Soon, however, Llega began requesting more money to handle family problems, student loans, auto bills, and eventually, brain cancer, Hodgins said.
Prosecutors said Llega told Hodgins that she was being treated at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, but had asked the hospital for anonymity if anyone called.
Steven Goldwyn, Llega’s court-appointed attorney, said she never connived to deceive Hodgins.
Hodgins would say "‘Let me help you with your loans,'" The Globe said Goldwyn told the court.
He said Hodgins, angry that Llega did not return his romantic affections, made up the story that she was fleecing him to get back at her.
"He found out she was going with her boyfriend to Florida and he got livid," Goldwyn said of Hodgins.
In arguing for a higher bail, Assistant District Attorney Raquel Frisardi asked Judge Roanne Sragow to consider what she called Llega’s flippant behavior while she was being booked.
Frisardi said Llega was consistently “laughing and giggling” while police were questioning her.
Llega "does not have any consideration for the seriousness of the offenses," Frisardi said.
In setting the bail at $100,000, the judge also forbade Llega from working with senior citizens. Authorities have confiscated her passport, though Llega has a green card, and Goldwyn said all her close family is in Massachusetts and that she is not a threat to leave the country.
Llega’s fiance, her father and a former employer were present for her arraignment. Each declined comment following the proceedings.
Ryan praises investigators
"I am proud of the swift and pointed detective work by Arlington police on this case," Chief Fred Ryan said in the release. "This is a particularly sad situation in which the victim has no family and whose kindness and generosity has been thoroughly taken advantage of."
This case remains under investigation, and additional charges are may follow.
After a reader asked how the victim's money may be recovered, YourArlington asked the chief, who responded:
"We have frozen several bank accounts that we believe some of the funds had been deposited into. We will work through the legal process and go to extraordinary measures to get every cent back to the victim that we possibly can.
"If found guilty, we would request that any balance of funds missing be paid in restitution by the alleged perpetrator."
This report was published Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, and was updated Dec. 4, to add detail from a Globe report.