The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A woman convinced her husband that he had Alzheimer’s. Police say she stole $600,000 from him over time.

4 min

Donna Marino’s husband just wanted to go into the bank. But his wife insisted it wasn’t a good idea.

Last time, he had caused a scene, she reminded him. Embarrassed that his Alzheimer’s disease would lead to more trouble, he agreed not to go in.

For approximately 20 years, Connecticut police say Marino stole money from her husband, cashing in on his pension checks, workers’ compensation payments and Social Security income. To cover her tracks, she convinced the now-73-year-old man he had Alzheimer’s, according to police reports.

In a news release, police estimated Marino stole a total of $600,000 from her husband, who told investigators he believed the alleged thefts began as early as 1999.

Investigators with the East Haven Police Department arrested Marino, 63, last Wednesday. She has been charged with first-degree larceny and third-degree forgery.

A supervisor at the New Haven County public defender’s office, which is representing Marino, did not immediately respond to an email from The Washington Post early Tuesday. Marino was released from jail on a promise to appear back in court Nov. 29.

Police were first notified of the alleged fraud in March 2019. The alleged victim’s adult daughter reported her suspicion that her father was being taken advantage of by Marino, whom he had married a decade earlier. The daughter said she had found paperwork at her father’s home for credit cards he knew nothing about, and she claimed Marino had forged documents to gain control of her father’s finances.

Police then interviewed Marino’s husband, who told them that his wife controlled the household finances and that he was unaware of the alleged stealing.

The daughter later contacted police and said her father no longer wished to pursue charges against Marino. But after he filed for divorce in January 2020, his daughter got back in touch with police that March and said they wished to reopen the investigation.

Detectives found several of the husband’s pension checks had been deposited into Marino’s mother’s bank account, according to police records obtained by The Post. When they brought in Marino for an interview in January 2021, she admitted that she had been signing and depositing her husband’s pension checks into the bank account for 13 years without his knowledge, the records state. Investigators estimate Marino stole approximately $216,000 in pension funds.

Marino also told police she intercepted and “mismanaged” a nearly $28,000 workers’ compensation settlement that had been paid out to her husband in 2012. And she owned up to pawning eight of his silver coins in 2017 without his knowledge, according to the police reports.

Marino allegedly said she used the funds to help her brother with rent, groceries and car payments and to financially assist her mother and adult daughter. She claimed she was able to get away with the scheme by telling her husband that he suffered from dementia, police records state.

“During Donna’s interview, she advised this investigator she was able to hide these fraudulent activities from [her husband] by convincing him he had Alzheimer’s Disease,” police wrote in the investigative documents. “Donna explained when [he] wanted to go inside the bank to make a transaction, she told him the last time he went inside he made a scene … Donna did this to prevent [him] from discovering the lower balance in their bank accounts.”

Marino also told police she had forged documents to obtain power of attorney for her husband and had the forms notarized by a friend in February 2019, records state. She used the power of attorney to file taxes for her husband, she allegedly said in the interview.

Because of the statute of limitations in Connecticut, police were restricted to investigating only the allegations of fraud within the past five years. After executing a search warrant on Marino’s mother’s bank account, detectives found 17 of the husband’s pension checks, totaling more than $23,000, had been deposited into the account from September 2017 to February 2019. The bank account was closed in September 2020.

Police records do not indicate how much of the estimated $600,000 was allegedly stolen in the past five years.

The alleged victim’s daughter, Elena Marino, told WFSB that her father married Marino in 2009. She said Alzheimer’s disease runs in the family, which was why he believed his wife’s stories.

Her father relocated to Florida after filing for divorce, she said, but the alleged years-long manipulation has left him in a vulnerable position.

“He just can’t believe the trauma,” Elena Marino told the news station. “He suffers.”