By TAMARA LUSH and KENT FISCHER
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- A 53-year-old Hudson man was arrested Friday on charges that he swindled two elderly sisters-in-law out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a scam that nearly cost one victim her home, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Norman Applebaum, of 8929 Toureau Place in Hudson, faces two counts of exploiting the elderly, according to a deputy's report. He was released Friday on $150,000 bail.
Applebaum told the Times that the charges are false and stem from a long-running family dispute and an overzealous detective.
"I'm looking at the biggest bunch of lies I've ever seen," Applebaum said Monday night. "I've never had anything like this happen to me before. I'm in shock. It's totally untrue."
According to a Pasco arrest warrant, Applebaum persuaded an elderly relative to withdraw $169,369 from her bank account. Applebaum told the woman that he would invest the money for her, but never did, investigators said. Instead, they traced $80,000 of it to Applebaum's corporate account. Applebaum owns AA Better Used Cars on U.S. 19 in Port Richey.
Applebaum said he doesn't have any of the money mentioned in the arrest warrant. Applebaum repeatedly said family members are trying to twist his actions into something sinister. He also blamed the Sheriff's Office, claiming the investigating officer was out to get him.
"This is total misrepresentation by the Sheriff's Office," he said. Applebaum also is accused of persuading a second woman to take out a second mortgage on her home, which was already paid for, in order to "prevent the hospitals from taking her home," according to the arrest warrant.
The woman did as Applebaum told her, and then he tried to evict her when she began asking questions, the warrant states. Pasco County Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said Detective Lisa Mazza stopped the eviction.
In addition, Applebaum sold her 1995 Oldsmobile and kept $7,729 from the sale, according to the warrant.
Applebaum also denied that charge.