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Charges filed in Florida heiress fraud case

Authorities have charged a 52-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man with swindling the heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune out of almost $500,000. The arrests come after a yearlong investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Office and Department of Law Enforcement. Reports indicate that the pair worked as a housekeeper and ranch hand at the heiress's Pasco County estate and allegedly began to siphon money from her accounts after being promoted to the positions of bookkeeper and ranch manager.

After their promotions, the woman was authorized to pay ranch expenses and prepare checks for the heiress to sign and the man was tasked with running and managing the ranch. Prosecutors claim that the pair soon became romantically involved and began to take advantage of these privileges. According to reports, the man was fired in January 2017 after the heiress became concerned about several improprieties. He also allegedly attempted to use fraudulently acquired paperwork to retain possession of a Freightliner truck and trailer owned by the ranch.

The confrontation over the tractor-trailer and another incident involving an allegedly fraudulently obtained recreational vehicle is said to have prompted the heiress to contact the authorities, and investigators say that they quickly uncovered an elaborate web of theft and fraud. Prosecutors say that the pair stole more than $150,000 by handing the heiress checks to endorse. The couple are also accused of forging their employer's signature on several occasions.

Cases involving white collar crimes are often difficult for juries to follow, and prosecutors may seek to settle them quickly to avoid the uncertainties and expense of a protracted court battle. Experienced criminal defense attorneys could recommend a negotiated plea agreement when the evidence against their clients is overwhelming, but they may expect significant concessions in return for a speedy resolution.

Source: WPTV, Florida couple charged with pilfering nearly $500K from Wrigley chewing gum heiress, Associated Press, June 18, 2018

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