MANATEE -- A Manatee County jury found a Bradenton man guilty Thursday of stealing more than $700,000 over the course of five years from an 82-year-old woman diagnosed with dementia by misrepresenting himself as a financial adviser.
Ronald Perrault, also known as Ron Perot, was found guilty of two felonies: first-degree grand theft in excess of $100,000 and scheming to defraud in excess of $50,000.
Charges against Perrault by the State Attorney's Office were filed in May 2012 for $727,000 taken from Faye Faris between Oct. 7, 2007, and Feb. 4, 2011, following an investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services.
Faris, now living in Ohio, was in the courtroom with her son and daughter by her side when the verdict was read.
After the heavy toll financially and emotionally, the verdict brought the victimized family some relief.
"The humiliation was terrible," Faye Faris said. "I couldn't do it without my son and daughter."
Faris lived in Florida from 1978 to 2003.
Perrault, an employee at H&R Block at the time, reached out to her in 2001, gained her confidence and convinced her to allow him to be her financial adviser.
Perrault convinced his victim to invest in three corporations he formed over five years, according to the Department of Financial Service. He would form one paper company after another, each time convincing her she needed to give him more money if she wanted a return on her investment.
Total losses amounted to more than $1 million, including penalties Faris paid for taking money out of investment accounts to give to Perrault. Only $727,000, however, fell within the five-year statute of limitations.
Throughout the investigation, records and testimony show Perrault admitted taking the money but insisted it was loan. No business documents were ever produced, however, and the money taken was his only source of income for the entire time.
Faris' children worried throughout the trial about the effect the stress would have on her disease.
"I'm so glad that justice was served," Diana Faris said. "I was shaking when they read the verdict."
A defendant with dementia can make the case difficult to prosecute but she became known by at least one courthouse employee as "feisty, fantastic Faye."
"The money we realize is gone," Doug Faris said. "Take him off the streets. Let that be an example to anyone who tries to prey on the elderly."
During the trial, one juror said she was convinced of Perrault's wrongdoing because he kept going back to her for more money, he didn't have any other source of income and he failed to show any business records to justify the money was an investment.
"It was pretty obvious that he took advantage of an elderly person with money," she said.
The jury was out for an hour Thursday morning in the fourth day of proceedings. The juror said it was an easy verdict with the entire jury unanimous on a guilty verdict.
"Hopefully the jail time is significant because that is the only thing the family has got," she said.
A second juror said she was happy with the outcome and it was the correct verdict.
"I hope it serves as a deterrent for someone who is thinking to do it to someone else," she said.
Thursday's conviction is the latest case prosecuted under the newly formed White Collar Crime Division created by State Attorney Ed Brodsky.
"One of the things that I thought was important to tackle was white collar crime and the exploitation of the elderly," Brodsky said. "The prosecution in this case proved that."
Brodsky was in the courtroom Thursday when the jury read the verdict. The state attorney said the verdict confirmed the community's need for the division.
"I appreciate the jury's thoughtful consideration in this case," Brodsky said. "Everything we can do to make a difference and reduce the exploitation of the elderly in our community is important."
Brodsky and the victim's family also lauded lead prosecutor Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro for her work prosecuting the case.
Perrault was ordered to remain in custody until his sentencing hearing Dec. 4. Potential penalties include up to 30 years in prison and restitution.