As a 93-year-old Hialeah man was recovering from COVID-19 last year, his relatives went to work liquidating his bank accounts and selling his home in what authorities say was a "callous" case of elderly exploitation.
The man's great nephew, 19-year-old Italo Nelli, was arraigned Friday on charges of conspiracy to commit organized scheme to defraud, a second-degree felony, and financial exploitation of an elderly person, a first-degree felony, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office said.
Nelli's mother and the victim's niece, 50-year-old Hadee Toledo, appears to have fled Florida and is believed to be in Spain, prosecutors said.
Authorities said the victim was hospitalized in August 2020 after being diagnosed with COVID-19, and remained quarantined in a nursing and rehab center after his release from the hospital.
During that time, Toledo allegedly forged the victim’s signature on a power of attorney document, which was allegedly witnessed by Nelli and others, and legally notarized.
Toledo then used that power of attorney to forge transfer of property deeds, allowing her to sell the victim’s home, liquidate his bank accounts, and leave Florida, prosecutors said. Hialeah Police said the house was sold in a rush for less than it was worth.
Police said Toledo even changed her name to match the victim's last name to perpetrate the scheme.
"Hadee Toledo actually went and changed her name to Toledo in the furtherance of this scheme, she was then able to forge Mr. Toledo’s signature and place him in a home," Hialeah Police Sgt. Joshua Garfinkel said.
Nelli allegedly received $5,000 and a Mercedes Benz from Toledo.
The total financial loss to the victim was around $500,000, prosecutors said.
"The thief that steals from the elderly reveals a callousness buried deep in their own heart," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "But the relative that steals everything possible from an aged family member, they can often be snatching the person’s very will to live."
Nelli was booked into jail and released on bond. Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Toledo. Attorney information wasn't available.