"She believed that convincing him that he had Alzheimer’s Disease would prevent him from going to the bank, ultimately to discover the low balances on his accounts," police claim
Donna Marino
Donna Marino
| Credit: East Haven Police Department

A Connecticut woman has been arrested after police say she defrauded her husband out of around $600,000 over the course of 20 years — and convinced him he had Alzheimer's Disease to cover up the alleged theft.

Following a months-long investigation, Donna Marino, 63, was arrested on Oct. 27, the East Haven Police Department said in a press release obtained by PEOPLE. She was charged with first-degree larceny and third-degree forgery.

"Through the investigation, it was determined that Ms. Marino would forge her husband's signature on his pension checks, social security checks, worker's compensation settlements, and other legal documents, before depositing the funds in a secret bank account without his knowledge," police claimed in the release.  

"Ms. Marino advised investigators that she was able to hide her fraudulent activities over the years by convincing her husband that he was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease," police alleged. "She further stated that she believed that convincing him that he had Alzheimer's Disease would prevent him from going to the bank, ultimately to discover the low balances on his accounts."

Marino was held on a $25,000 bond and appeared before a judge on Oct. 28, per the news release. The Washington Post reported that she will be represented by the New Haven County public defender's office, which did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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Marino's husband, 78, and his adult daughter Elena, first notified police about the alleged fraud in March 2019, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.

At the time, Elena told police that she discovered the alleged theft when she found "financial paperwork" at their Connecticut home — and that she believed Marino had been stealing money from him since 1999. 

Marino's husband told police that his wife had "always controlled his finances" and until his daughter's alleged discovery, "he had no idea she was taking money from him." 

Although his daughter later told police her father was no longer interested in pursuing charges, she got back in touch with police after he filed for divorce in January 2020, reported the Post.

Marino's husband provided a written statement to police that October saying he believed his wife had been "defrauding him of his pension, paychecks, workers compensation settlements, and other forms of monetary gains over multiple decades," according to the affidavit.

He also expressed that he wished to pursue charges against her. 

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This January, Marino met with investigators and told them she had been "signing" her husband's pension checks and depositing them into her mother's bank account for approximately thirteen years, according to the affidavit. 

She went on to tell police she fraudulently obtained Power of Attorney for her husband and used that to file for taxes on his behalf, and she admitted to pawning off some of his belongings, authorities said.  

"Donna stated she was able to hide these fraudulent activities from [him] by convincing him he had Alzheimer's Disease," police wrote in the affidavit.

Whenever he expressed a desire to go inside a bank, Marino told him "the last time he went inside he made a scene due to his Alzheimer's Disease, causing [him] not to go inside to avoid embarrassment," per police.

In an interview with WFSB, Elena said one of her father's biggest fears was being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, as it runs in the family.

Marino told police that she "fabricated this scenario to prevent John from going inside the bank and discovering the low balance in their accounts," per the affidavit.

Police said that during the interview, Donna also admitted to having "mismanaged" a $20,000 workers compensation settlement her husband had received.

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Marino allegedly said that she used the money to "help her family" — which included helping her brother pay rent and buy groceries — police wrote in the affidavit.  

"Donna stated she was trying to make everyone 'happy,' but it was at [her husband's] expense," police wrote.

Throughout the course of their investigation, police say they found Marino had deposited 17 of his pension checks — totaling over $23,000 — into her mother's bank account between September 2017 through February 2019. The bank account had a zero balance as of September 2020 and appears closed, per police.

Police went on to note that the total amount of money Marino allegedly stole from her husband "is much greater," but due to the statute of limitations, only money stolen over the last five years could be investigated. 

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Elena told WFSB that she has since relocated her father to Florida, but that he is still struggling to come to terms with the depth of the alleged years-long theft.  

"He just can't believe the trauma," she told the outlet. "He suffers." 

Marino is next due to appear in court on Nov. 29, according to the Post.