SJ Couple Part of Classic “Sweetheart Scam”

A San Jose couple scam victims out of thousands of dollars.

A San Jose couple has been sentenced for scamming at least two victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars; one was a classic "sweetheart scam," and the other involved the bizarre exorcism of a dead man's spirit.

Shirley Stanley, 48, and her common-law husband, Anthony Costello, 43, were sentenced Friday in Santa Clara County Superior Court on felony theft and contracting without a license.

Stanley was ordered to go to to prison for five years and Costello was sent to one year in county jail.

"These  are illegal scams aimed at the weak and vulnerable of our community,’’ said Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard. “These scams are never about spirituality or love. They are about money.’’

Stanley's attorney, Annrae Angel, could not be immediately reached.

Costello's attorney, Dennis Lempert said on Monday that his client, who was already out of custody for time served, "expressed regret" over what happened. Lempert added that Costello had paid back more than a quarter of a million dollars in restitution.

In 2007, prosecutors say Shirley met an elderly San Jose man, who was in poor health, had never been married and lived with his mother. Shirley flirted with this man, and then convinced him that her young children needed money for medical operations, prosecutors said. In fact, her children were not ill at all.

And as incredulous as it may seem, Shirley and the elderly man became engaged, and prosecutors say she conned him out of more than $200,000. At the time, Shirley introduced Costello to the man as her brother.

Someone in the man's family became suspicious and reported it to DA Investigator Dennis Brookins and the Santa Clara County Financial Abuse Specialist Team.

Brookins froze the suspects' bank accounts and thus, preserved the money for restitution. The victim received $236,000 back, prosecutors said.

Brookins' investigation revealed another victim: A San Jose woman who, for the past three years, paid Costello more than $100,000 after Stanley claimed to have exorcised the evil spirit of her dead former boyfriend. The money was to ward off these demons, Bourlard said.

"Stanley convinced the victim that her former boyfriend was haunting her and her current boyfriend," Bourlard said. "The victim was convinced that is what was causing her current boyfriend's alcoholism."

As part of this scam, Stanley convinced the woman to buy high-end bottles of scotch, vodka, champagne and expensive perfume to be given to a church, in order to help her current boyfriend’s problem with alcoholism.

Instead, prosecutors said Shirley and Costello kept the goodies. Forced into bankruptcy, the woman was later paid $43,000 in restitution, with an order for the remainder.

Brookins also discovered that in 2008 Costello passed himself off as a licensed contractor, charging thousands for defective concrete patios. Two San Jose victims were reimbursed $13,300 and $2,300 respectively.

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