Guarscio v. State

64 So. 3d 146 (2011)

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Guarscio v. State

Florida District Court of Appeal
64 So. 3d 146 (2011)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Helen Woichowski purchased a home in Florida and put it in joint title with her granddaughter, Dana Guarscio (plaintiff), whom Woichowski had voluntarily supported throughout Guarscio’s life. The initial mortgage was $47,000. Guarscio worked various part-time jobs, and Woichowski received social security benefits, which allowed them to cover the cost of the mortgage. However, Guarscio and Woichowski subsequently refinanced the mortgage three times to cover Guarscio’s expenses, adding over $100,000 to the balance and doubling the monthly payment. Guarscio and Woichowski could not afford the increased mortgage payments after the third refinance. After the third refinance, Woichowski suffered a stroke and was admitted to a nursing facility. Prior to Woichowski’s stroke, she had never been diagnosed with diminished mental capacity. While in the nursing facility, on the advice of a social worker, Woichowski entered a voluntary guardianship relationship with a local guardianship office. Woichowski’s new guardian reviewed Woichowski’s finances and discovered that the house was in danger of foreclosure and that Guarscio had received $100,000 from Woichowski’s accounts, including approximately $5,000 from checks Guarscio wrote on Woichowski’s accounts after Woichowski’s stroke. Based on the guardian’s findings, the State of Florida (defendant) charged Guarscio with (1) exploitation of an elderly individual in excess of $100,000, based on the multiple refinancings; and (2) grand theft, based on the money Guarscio took or received from Woichowski’s accounts. At trial, the state only presented the three refinance agreements as evidence of exploitation, all of which were signed by both Guarscio and Woichowski. After a jury trial, Guarscio was convicted on both counts. Guarscio appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Northcutt, J.)

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