Josephine Camp Vellone, 96, a homemaker who with her husband was the victim of a $3.6 million fraud that nearly wiped out their life savings, died of progressive dementia Oct. 13 at Sunrise assisted living center in Wayne, N.J., where she lived.
Mrs. Vellone and her husband lost millions to Wayne E. Jackson, an employee of a brokerage service at their bank, who persuaded them to funnel money to a Beltsville ministry and day-care center from 1997 to 1999.
The money was used to buy three homes and a dozen luxury vehicles, including two Lexuses, a Rolls-Royce and a Lincoln Navigator. In addition, a cohort of Jackson's pretended to be a relative to move them out of an assisted living center in the District's Thomas Circle area, where Joseph A. Vellone had been receiving round-the-clock care. Moving the couple into the third floor of the cohort's townhouse freed up more funds for the fraud, prosecutors said.
The Vellones came to Washington in 1945 when Joseph Vellone got a job as an accountant with the Rural Electrification Commission. He later received a law degree, and he handled the couple's finances.
After he died in 1999, Mrs. Vellone continued to give Jackson money per her husband's arrangement.
"I thought I was donating maybe two or three or four hundred dollars," she said in an interview with The Washington Post in 2003. "I didn't realize he was going to be stripping us, robbing us of all our money."
Mrs. Vellone, a native of Warder, Ill., moved to New Jersey in 1999, after relatives realized that she was being defrauded.
Jackson, who pleaded guilty to a count of wire fraud, was sentenced in 2003 to two years in prison and ordered to pay restitution. Ritza G. Whatley, who operated the ministry, pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return. Beverly Williams, who worked for Whatley, pleaded guilty to failing to report a crime.
The Vellones lived frugally most of their lives in a two-bedroom, low-rent apartment in Southeast Washington, relatives said, banking most of their money and rarely buying a new car. A meal at a cafeteria was a rare treat. The fraud left them with $130,000; Mrs. Vellone recovered some but not all of the millions of dollars.
She was primarily a homemaker and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames.
"She was a very patriotic woman. She could trace ancestry back to 1600s yet was fleeced by a young banker," her nephew said.
She is survived by a sister.