CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge on Tuesday went above the sentencing guidelines in sending a woman to prison for seven years for stealing money from the elderly mother of her deceased boyfriend.
U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade called Robin Bertelli, 61, of Cedar Rapids, “coldblooded and shameful” for taking advantage of Beverly Martin, the widowed mother of former Navy SEAL Ken Martin, who began a romantic relationship with Bertelli in 2013.
In all, Bertelli stole $192,500 from the two over a three-year period.
Bertelli moved in with the Martins and offered to help her boyfriend’s mother, a “trusting and honorable lady who wasn’t suspicious of people,” because the woman was unable to walk to her mailbox to collect her bank statements and other mail.
Beverly Martin, in a victim impact statement, said she and her late husband had “scrimped and saved” all their lives so they could have security later in life, but that it was gone because of Bertelli’s theft.
She said she has endured the trauma of a three-day civil hearing and still is responsible for the penalties and interest on what Bertelli stole from her and her son, she said.
“I don’t trust people now,” Beverly Martin told the judge. “I don’t understand how someone could eat at your table and buy you gifts with the money she stole. I never knew there were people like this.”
Reade said she went above the sentencing guideline because the scheme — occurring over a long period of time and involving multiple forged checks — was for nothing but greed.
She sentenced Bertelli to five years in prison for bank fraud and the mandatory minimum of two years for aggravated identity theft. She ran both terms consecutively for a total of seven years.
The plea agreement shows Bertelli moved in with Ken Martin in 2013 when he was living with his mother in rural Central City.
Bertelli started stealing mail from the Martin’s mother, including items sent to her from Collins Community Credit Union.
In December 2015, Ken Martin received an inheritance of about $18,000 from a relative and deposited it into his checking account.
In February 2016, Bertelli and Ken Martin, then 57, traveled to Puerto Rico for a vacation, where he died unexpectedly. Bertelli told others he had gone swimming, hit his head on a rock, and accidentally drowned, according to court documents.
His family members ultimately discovered Bertelli had stolen blank checks from him and his mother, according to court documents.
Reade said during sentencing that Bertelli concealed the thefts for so long because she had two big dogs who would nip at Beverly Martin and keep others out of the basement area where Bertelli stayed.
Family members finally discovered the stolen mail, receipts and IRS letters in Bertelli's bedroom when she was away on a drinking binge, and an investigation was started.
Court documents show Bertelli, from July 2013 through September 2016, fraudulently wrote 63 checks to herself and forged Martin’s and his mother’s signatures.
She would deposit the money into her account at another bank. Three of the transfers occurred after Ken Martin’s death, according to court documents.
Bertelli stole $192,500, using the funds for her own purposes, including buying a BMW, according to court documents.
Reade noted during the hearing that Bertelli had been convicted in June 1997 of second-degree theft for stealing $6,000 in traveler’s checks from Destinations Unlimited. In addition, she was charged in February 2000 with first-degree theft for embezzling $105,000 from Insect Control Specialists.
Reade noted Bertelli had received probation and deferred judgments in those cases.
Reade ordered Bertelli to pay $192,500 in victim restitution. Of that restitution, $31,000 is for Collins Community Credit Union, but the judge stipulated Beverly Martin be the first priority for payment.
Bertelli has paid more than $11,000 in restitution from a settlement she received from the city of Cedar Rapids involving a bus accident, Reade noted.
Beverly Martin sued Bertelli in state court, where the court in July granted a default judgment of $141,159 because Bertelli didn’t respond to the lawsuit.
Beverly Martin also sued the credit union, claiming it was liable for cashing checks with forged signatures and cashing certificates of deposit without Martin’s authority, but a jury found in favor of the credit union.
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