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Fri., Oct. 9
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Zeller trial could go to the jury Monday


CANTON - St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. “Jerry” Richards told jurors Friday afternoon that he anticipated the case could be handed to them to begin their deliberations on Monday.

Ms. Zeller is charged with two counts of third-degree grand larceny after allegedly scamming Gloria Dietze out of more than $3,000. She reportedly told Ms. Dietze she needed the money to pay for care for her sick son.

Jurors heard from several witnesses on Friday afternoon, most of whom the prosecutor called to the stand to debunk stories Zeller told people she was allegedly attempting to convince to give her money. She also called one witness to the stand in an effort to show jurors that Zeller used a common theme in those efforts to con people out of their money,

Zeller’s mother, Darlene LaRose, who testified that her daughter was grossly exaggerating the seriousness of her son Ryan’s medical condition, although she did acknowledge he is a diabetic. Zeller allegedly told Ms. Dietze and other alleged victims she needed money to purchase medication for her son.

“Have you ever known him to have any kind of diabetic crisis?” Special Prosecutor Nicole M. Duve asked.

“None that I’m aware of,” she said, adding that to the best of her knowledge Ryan has never been hospitalized or taken to a medical facility by ambulance for anything connected to his diabetes.

During cross examination Zeller’s attorney, Brian D. Pilatzke, questioned how involved Ms. LaRose has been with Ryan’s care over the past seven years.

“Not a lot,” she replied, to which Mr. Pilatzke said, “So you wouldn’t know about his medical care?”

“Well I know he has diabetes. He lives across the road from me now,” she said, adding her grandson, with whom she keeps in regular contact, has lived across the street from her “off and on” for the past “six to eight years.”

Jurors also heard from Ms. Dietze’s brother, Robert W. Dietze. He told jurors he began asking his sister for money to lend to Zeller after he ran out of his own money.

When asked how he met Zeller, Mr. Dietze said she contacted him on Facebook in June 2011, even asking him for money at that very first time.

“Could you describe the relationship?” Ms. Duve asked.

“She needed money, and I loaned it to her,” he said, adding that as this went on for several months he had hoped it could blossom into something more.

“I thought there was going to be a relationship, but that never happened,” he said.

Ms. Duve asked, “Did she you tell you that was a possibility?”

“One time,” he replied.

Estimating that he loaned money to Ms. Zeller roughly 30 times,” he said he began asking his sister for money to give to Ms. Zeller after he ran out of money.

Mr. Dietze also noted that he would eventually plead guilty to a misdemeanor after being charged with a felony count of scheming to defraud. In addition to noting he has never been paid back, he also said it was his understanding, Zeller would be depositing money into his sister’s account to pay her back for the money he had borrowed from Ms. Dietze on her behalf.

Mr. Dietze said he was under the impression Zeller worked for Hospice, something that Mackenzie Shoen, who serves as Hospice’s financial director, said never was the case during his brief appearance on the stand.

He also said that Zeller had told him was planning to pay him back once she received a settlement from a lawsuit she had filed against the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.

The notion of Zeller filing a lawsuit against the county was also proven false when St. Lawrence County Attorney Michael Crowe testified that no such lawsuit had ever been filed.

The afternoon started though with testimony from RaeAnne Dunning, something that Mr. Pilatzke attempted to prevent prior to the jury entering the courtroom. However, Mr. Richards said he would allow her testimony.

Mr. Pilatzke argued the current case against Zeller differed from Ms. Dunning’s situation as Ms. Duve attempted to use other witnesses to demonstrate Zeller had used a common theme to con people out of their money.

The defense attorney said the allegation in Ms. Dunning’s case was Zeller had said she was going to be depositing money in her account compared to the allegation in the Dietze case that she ha failed to pay an alleged victim back for money she had borrowed.

“The promise to repay was by depositing money in the victim’s checking account,” Mr. Richards said.

In an attempt to show Zeller’s intent not to pay Ms. Dietze back, Ms. Duve called Rae Ann Dunning to the stand. Ms. Dunning was allegedly scammed into issuing 65 to 70 bad checks from her account between November 2008 and January 2009 at multiple locations across St. Lawrence County.

Ms. Zeller provided police with a statement at the time of the alleged Dunning scam.

“In November and December of 2008, I told Rae Ann Dunning that I was putting money into her checking account and had her write checks for me. I had no intention of putting money into her account and knew the checks would bounce,” Ms. Zeller wrote in a statement she provided to police at the time of her arrest.

She was charged with third-degree grand larceny in that incident.

Ms. Dunning testified she met Zeller while living in a boarding home in 2008.

“She asked me if she could use my account to process payments for stuff she needed,” Ms. Dunning said. “I wrote checks for her believing she had put money in my account.”

Ms. Dunning said this went on for a couple of months until she received a bank statement that showed she had a negative balance.

“She said she would take care of it,” Ms. Dunning said.

Ms. Duve replied, “Did that happen?”

“No,” Ms. Dunning said.

She told jurors she was led to believe she was Zeller’s best friend.

“She said I was like the sister she never had,” she said. “We were best friends and I trusted her.”

At the time, Ms. Dunning said she was living off of $333 per month in DSS benefits. “Three hundred of that went for rent,” she said.

Ms. Duve asked Ms. Dunning if she had ever given Zeller cash.

“No, I never had any money I could give her,” she replied.

During cross examination, Mr. Pilatzke asked whether any of the money from the checks Ms. Dunning had bounced went to her.

“Approximately 20 percent went to me and 80 percent went to Ms. Zeller,” she said, adding Ms. Zeller gave her an “allotment” for gas, cigarettes, personal needs and Christmas stuff for my children.

“She wanted to help me out,” Ms. Dunning said. “When she would get money, she would allot money for cigarettes and other things. She knew I had difficulties. We went to mental health together.”

When asked if she had ever been paid back any money, Ms. Dunning said that she had not.

“To date those accounts are still overdrawn,” she said.

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