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Stockbroker pleads guilty to stealing from client with dementia

James Marino, 31, wrote checks to himself, opened credit card in his name

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As expected, a former Fort Lauderdale-based stockbroker pleaded guilty to financially exploiting a millionaire with dementia.

The plea ends years of investigation into whether former stockbroker James Marino, 31, stole tens of thousands of dollars from a then 86-year-old woman.

From 2013 to 2014, the Department of Children and Families received anonymous tips through its abuse hotline that an elderly woman with a debilitating disease that impairs judgment was potentially being financially exploited.

Marino was named in two reports, investigators said.

According to investigators, Marino trolled the victim’s neighborhood searching for a wealthy, vulnerable person.

Marino was able to persuade the victim to move her nearly $4 million Merrill Lynch account to his mid-sized firm of Edward Jones, where he worked as an advisor.

Marino continued to build trust with the woman by helping her with daily tasks and running errands, investigators said.

A review of the victim’s financial records by investigators showed Marino accessed the woman’s funds for his own personal gain.

Eight checks totaling $20,500 were written out to cash and endorsed by Marino from March to September 2014, investigators said.

Additionally, an American Express gold card was opened in Marino’s name but tied to the victim’s account. The card was used for purchases at restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores and for hurricane shutters investigators said.

Cindy Kramer, the president for Broward County Guardianship Association, was first to notice a credit card in the Marino’s name, uncovering charges made at places like Dolphins Stadium, liquor stores and a Halloween store.

The total amount Marino charges was roughly $6,700.

In May 2015, detectives confronted Marino at his office about the charges. When detectives presented the credit card statements, Marino said the victim was helping him build credit and admitted to using the card for personal items, investigators said.

Then, detectives asked about the checks made to cash that Marino endorsed and cashed.

According to investigators, Marino said the victim had given him the money to help him out.

Marino provided investigators a sworn written statement.

Marino will be placed on five years of probation and must pay back the full amount he unlawfully stole from the victim.