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Jury to continue deliberations in Zeller trial today

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CANTON — Bobbie Joe Zeller, the Norfolk woman accused of conning a Potsdam woman out of more than $3,000, will have to wait another day for a jury to decide her fate.

Deliberations in the trial against Ms. Zeller began at 3:37 p.m. Monday afternoon in St. Lawrence County Court, following the testimony of Department of Social Services Medical Services Adviser Heather L. Wenzel.

Ms. Zeller, 37, faces two counts of grand larceny, accused of scamming Potsdam resident Gloria J. Dietze out of more than $3,000.

Ms. Wenzel told the court that from August 2011 to September 2012, the time in which Ms. Zeller allegedly scammed Ms. Dietze and her brother Robert W. Dietze by asking for money to get medicine for her diabetic son, Medicaid covered everything he could have needed, down to gasoline for the drive to visits.

“There are medicines for diabetes that are not covered under Medicaid,” Ms. Wenzel said. “Ryan did not receive medicine that was not covered by Medicaid.”

Ms. Wenzel said there had not been any point in which Ms. Zeller’s son didn’t have total coverage by Medicaid.

In her closing statements, Special Prosecutor Nicole M. Duve told the jury that Ms. Wenzel’s testimony corroborates the “most compelling testimony” in this trial, that of Ms. Zeller’s mother, Darlene LaRose, who testified that her daughter grossly exaggerated her son’s medical condition.

“She never knew him to be in a diabetic crisis,” Ms. Duve said. “She has always understood (his diabetes) to be well managed.”

Ms. Duve added that Ms. Zeller was working a “good old-fashioned con” by seeking out “an easy mark” — a vulnerable person who is alone and “looking to be wanted and needed.”

When Ms. Zeller met Mr. Dietze on the Internet, Ms. Duve said, she had promised there was potential for something beyond a friendship and then asked for money. Mr. Dietze turned to his sister, who wanted to help her brother, she said during her testimony Friday.

According to Ms. Dietze’s testimony, her brother Robert introduced her to Ms. Zeller in 2011. At first, Mr. Dietze asked his sister for money to pass along to Ms. Zeller. Once Ms. Dietze met Ms. Zeller, she began making payments herself, sometimes neglecting her own bills to help the defendant, her testimony said.

But Ms. Zeller’s attorney, Brian D. Pilatzke, said the story doesn’t make sense.

“Use your common sense. Who would lend out more money a month than they have?” Mr. Pilatzke said.

Mr. Pilatzke asked the jury to consider that Ms. Dietze made $761 to $782 a month, yet there were four receipts between Aug. 25 and 28, 2011, totaling $1,100, that she allegedly gave to her brother for Ms. Zeller.

“Does it make sense for someone to give that money to her brother for someone she didn’t know?” Mr. Pilatzke said. “Plus, other than Ms. Dietze’s word that she gave money to Ms. Zeller, we have nothing. There’s nothing with Ms. Zeller’s signature on it and nothing to show that the money went to Ms. Zeller.”

The jury was sent home at 4:30 p.m. Monday and is scheduled to continue deliberations at 9:15 a.m. today.

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