Stole Nearly $200,000, Including an Inheritance the Navy SEAL Received After He Reportedly Drowned in Puerto Rico
A woman who stole the identities of an elderly woman and her deceased son, a former Navy SEAL, in order to withdraw nearly $200,000 from their bank accounts, was sentenced December 18, 2018, to seven years in federal prison.
Robin Ann Bertelli, age 61, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received the prison term after a May 17, 2018 guilty plea to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
In a plea agreement, and at her plea hearing, Bertelli admitted that, in 2013 she began a romantic relationship a former Navy SEAL, who resided with his elderly and widowed mother in rural Central City, Iowa. Bertelli soon moved into the home the widow and her son shared. The widow was unable to walk to her mailbox to get her mail, and Bertelli stole mail, including mail from the widow’s financial institution, Collins Community Credit Union (“CCCU”).
In December 2015, the former Navy SEAL received an inheritance of approximately $18,000 from a relative and deposited this inheritance into his checking account at CCCU. In February 2016, defendant and the former Navy SEAL travelled together to Puerto Rico for a vacation. On that trip, the former Navy SEAL unexpectedly died. Bertelli reported to others that the former Navy SEAL went swimming, hit his head on a rock, and accidentally drowned.
Family members of the former Navy SEAL ultimately discovered that Bertelli had stolen blank CCCU checks from the former Navy SEAL and his mother. From July 2013 through September 2016, Bertelli fraudulently made over 60 checks payable to herself, inserted a dollar amount, and forged their signatures. Bertelli deposited these forged checks into her own account at NXT Bank, causing transfers of funds from the CCCU accounts of the former Navy SEAL and his mother into Bertelli’s account at NXT Bank. The three transfers from the former Navy SEAL’s CCCU account all occurred after the date of his death. In total, Bertelli stole a total of $192,500 from the CCCU accounts of the former Navy SEAL and his mother. Bertelli used the stolen funds for her own purposes, including to purchase a luxury car and purses.
Bertelli was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade. Bertelli was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment. She was ordered to make $192,500 in restitution to her victims. She must also serve a five-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
At the sentencing, Judge Reade found Bertelli had an “extremely high risk to recidivate” and pointed out that Bertelli had a number of prior state court theft convictions for which she had received no time in jail—including a six-figure embezzlement from a prior employer. Judge Reade characterized Bertelli as an “opportunist” whose acts were “shameful.” Judge Reade found that, if not confined or under court-ordered supervision, Bertelli “will steal again.” Judge Reade also noted Bertelli had two prior drunk driving convictions, limited legal employment, and violated the court’s orders by using alcohol while on pretrial release.
The prosecution of Bertelli is part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Abuse Initiative. In March 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa was selected as one of ten districts nationwide to launch regional Elder Justice Task Forces. The Elder Justice Task Forces reflect the department’s larger strategy and commitment to protecting our nation’s seniors, spearheaded by the department’s Elder Justice Initiative. The Elder Justice Initiative coordinates and supports the Department’s law enforcement efforts and policy activities on elder justice issues. It plays an integral role in the department’s investigative and enforcement efforts against nursing homes and other long-term care entities that deliver grossly substandard care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa has rededicated its efforts and resources to investigate and hold accountable those who have been involved in activities incompatible with ensuring that the state’s more vulnerable citizens are treated with dignity and respect.
The charges also were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
Bertelli is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until she can be transported to a federal prison.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and investigated by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 18-CR-30-LRR.