MANATEE -- A Bradenton man Wednesday was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing almost $700,000 from an 84-year-old woman, now diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, after he posed as a financial adviser.
A jury found Ronald Perrault, also known as Ron Perot, guilty Sept. 26 of first-degree grand theft in excess of $100,000 and scheming to defraud in excess of $50,000.
Manatee County Judge Edward Nicholas, who sentenced Perrault, also placed him on 15 years probation and ordered him to pay $687,000 restitution.
Testimony and other evidence showed the thefts took place from 2007 to 2011.
Perrault's victim, Faye Faris, along with two of her children, Doug and Diana Faris, testified Wednesday on the financial, physical and psychological pain the loss of money has caused.
"The misery he has caused me is beyond repair," Faye Faris said.
Her children said they have watched their mother deteriorate over the past five years.
"She started becoming very stressed. She was very depressed," Diana Faris said. "She stopped playing bridge, she stopped reading, she stopped doing anything. She would sit and look out the window for hours."
Perrault asked the judge for mercy and a chance to repay the money he says he "borrowed."
"I don't have the words to express how sorry I am that we are all here," Perrault said. "Especially them, this co-dependent thing got
way out of control."
Perrault said he was ready to take responsibility.
"If it is the last thing I do, I will pay the money back to this family, as I always intended to do," Perrault said. "I never ever intended to steal anything."
Perrault told the court he could begin repaying the money immediately.
Nicholas said he took Perrrault's remorse and lack of criminal record into account.
"Ultimately, judges make difficult decisions every day," Nicholas said. "This, however, is not one of them."
Nicholas said he was troubled by the amount of money stolen. In court Wednesday, Doug Faris testified to finding the amount stolen to be more than $2.05 million.
"She clearly trusted you. You clearly took advantage of her," Nicholas said. "Mrs. Faris was not driving this train. This was not borrowing money from a client, but this obviously was not a normal broker-client relationship."
Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro questioned Perrault on how the funds were used.
"You purchased a Mercedes with cash. You purchased a BMW with cash," Chittaro said. "Mrs. Faris was your only source of cash. She bought you those cars."
Chittaro had sought a 20-year prison sentence.
"This defendant had plenty of time to repay this back," Chittaro said. "The purpose of the criminal justice system is not to be a bill collector. It's punishment."
Faye Faris said she was in shock in the courtroom as Perrault answered questions from the lawyers.
"I was so frustrated sitting there," she said. "I couldn't believe the lies."
While the victim had hoped Perrault would see more prison time, she said she was looking forward to moving on. "When do we start seeing some money?" she said.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.