According to the sheriff, an elderly woman in California was victimized in a mortgage fraud scheme to seize her home before being murdered as part of a planned killing

Detectives investigating the death of a 96-year-old woman in California nearly two years ago have revealed that she was the victim of an elaborate murder-for-hire and reverse-mortgage scam aimed at gaining control of her home. The authorities announced Thursday that four individuals have been arrested in connection with the case.

Violet Evelyn Alberts was discovered dead in her bed by her caretaker at her Montecito residence on May 27, 2022, with a broken window in her home. A subsequent autopsy determined that she had died from asphyxiation, ruling her death a homicide, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

The case was initially surrounded by mystery as investigators unraveled “a complex, malicious network of financial exploitation against the victim,” Brown stated in a press conference on Thursday.

The scheme began when the financially distressed widow was approached by Pauline Macareno, 48, who offered to facilitate a reverse mortgage on her valuable property, Brown explained. However, Macareno engaged in a series of transactions, including document forgery and the establishment of fraudulent entities, ultimately aiming to unlawfully take control of Alberts’ home, the sheriff’s office revealed. Macareno was identified as the “central figure in the manipulation and deceitful targeting” of Alberts, Brown added.

Subsequently, evidence emerged suggesting that Alberts had become the target of a murder-for-hire plot, according to the sheriff. “In Pauline Macareno’s eyes, Miss Alberts was living too long,” Brown remarked, suggesting that hastening Alberts’ death was the motive behind the murder.

Just three days before Alberts was discovered deceased, two men, 41-year-old Ricardo MartinDelCampo and 33-year-old Henry Rostomyan, had conducted “a scouting trip” to Alberts’s residence, as per the sheriff’s office. “This crucial discovery illuminated the premeditated nature of the crime, highlighting the perpetrators’ calculated efforts to surveil Alberts’ home and plan their heinous actions,” Brown stated.

Rostomyan was arrested last month, while MartinDelCampo was arrested on March 5. Both are currently in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail without bail, facing charges of murder and conspiracy to murder Alberts, according to the sheriff’s office. A third individual, 58-year-old Harry Basmadjian, was apprehended in January for his alleged involvement in the conspiracy while already detained in federal custody in Los Angeles on an unrelated charge, as stated in a sheriff’s news release.

Macareno was arrested in 2022 and has since been sentenced to six years in state prison for fraud related to Alberts’ case, according to the sheriff’s office. Brown mentioned that she also faces pending additional charges, although he did not specify the charges.

It hasn’t been confirm if any of the suspects have legal representation.

Identification of a suspect’s vehicle, review of surveillance footage, and forensic analysis of the crime scene led investigators to the suspects, Brown explained. The investigation is ongoing, authorities stated on Thursday.

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