A Nederland man has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $200,000 in life savings from an elderly woman in California.
Bryson Miguel Cendejas was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury April 19, 2012, for felony theft and pleaded guilty to the crime Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.
According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Examiner, in April 2010, Laura Murphy Hovsepian of California contacted Cendejas, owner of Golden Triangle Associates in Nederland, to help her sell her gold and platinum coin collection. Hovsepian shipped 160 gold coins and 50 platinum coins in two separate UPS shipments to Golden Triangle Associates.
According to the affidavit, the coins were purchased from the U.S. Money Reserve in Austin for $176,803 and represented Ms. Hovsepian’s entire life savings.
It seems Cendejas was eager to receive the coins, telling Hovsepian she was the proud owner of a collection worth at least $1 million, the affidavit said.
Bill McCann of the U.S. Money Reserve valued the collection in Nov. 14, 2011, at $248,564.
In July 2010, Cendejas began sending cashier’s checks and money orders from the sale of Hovsepian’s coins, first in the amount of $10,549 for the sale of 18 coins, then six $1,000 money orders in the following months for a total payout of $16,549, the affidavit said.
Growing suspicious and worrying about her investment, Hovsepian wondered if Cendejas was trading her coins without her approval and soon demanded Cendejas return the valuable coin collection in January 2011. Cendejas acknowledged the demand by phone, according to the affidavit, and told Hovsepian he would ship the coins back as soon as possible. A second demand for the coins was sent to Cendejas by mail in March 2011 and again, Cendejas said he would ship the coins, according to the affidavit.
No coins were ever shipped back to Hovsepian, and Cendejas never spoke to his aging client again, the affidavit said.
When he appeared in Judge John Stevens’ Criminal District Court on Friday, Cendejas was asked by Stevens how he would begin to pay restitution in the case of more than $176,000.
“I’ll just have to work and pay it off,” Cendejas replied.
Stevens pried further, chastising Cendejas and asking him where all the valuable coins went.
“You’re going to steal from an 83-year-old woman and take all her savings?” Stevens said. “Do you have any money at all to pay these people back, sir?”
“Not at the moment, sir,” Cendejas replied.
“Where did the money go? How much? 176,000? Where did the money go?” Stevens asked.
“I lost a lot of money in my company,” was Cendejas’ reply.
Cendejas’ defense said ultimately, it was Cendejas’ failing business venture that caused Hovsepian’s life savings to be eradicated, saying the
business was simply falling apart at the time.
“It certainly fell apart for the 83-year-old woman,” Stevens said. “She doesn’t have a lot of life left to get this money back to enjoy it.”
Cendejas pleaded guilty to felony theft, taking a deal that would give him probation for 10 years, a $1,000 fine and more than $176,000 in restitution.
His formal sentencing is Nov. 18 in Judge John Stevens’ Criminal District Court.