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Checks show woman gave $15,000 to accused con artist

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CANTON — In the first of two testimonies to be recorded for the potential trial of Bobbie Jo Zeller, a Waddington woman said she loaned money with “tender loving care.”

The conditional examinations of alleged victim June H. McQueeney, 81, began Tuesday afternoon in St. Lawrence County Court with Ms. McQueeney’s testimony.

Ms. Zeller is accused of conning Ms. McQueeney out of more than $15,000, according to evidence submitted to the court during the testimony.

Previously, it had been reported Ms. McQueeney had been defrauded of $3,000.

Ms. Zeller, 36, of 72 W. Main St., Apt. 4, Norfolk, faces two counts of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree grand larceny, three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

Ms. McQueeney’s alleged victimization comes through her relationship with retired Waddington priest Monsignor Robert L. Lawler.

Monsignor Lawler allegedly had more than $300,000 stolen from him and his parish by Ms. Zeller, who is accused of manipulating them with stories about her desperate need for cash to care for an ailing son.

“We were very good friends,” Ms. McQueeney said. “He said he had been helping Bobby Jo.”

That was in 2010.

Monsignor Lawler hadn’t asked Ms. McQueeney to respond to Ms. Zeller’s cries for financial help, she said.

“He came to a point where he said he couldn’t give her any more money,” Ms. McQueeney said. “I said I could help her with money, and I gave her money from my savings.”

But Ms. McQueeney said that help led to the depletion of those savings with a final check for $1,751.18 that closed her Met Life account.

Seven checks totaling $9,651.18 came from that account.

Those checks were distributed between November 2010 and January 2011 with an $800 check dated Dec. 24 and a $300 check dated Dec. 31.

“That was all the money that was left in that account,” Ms. McQueeney said. “It all went to Bobbie Jo. I cashed the checks and gave her the money.”

Ms. McQueeney said Ms. Zeller continued to tell her she “needed the money,” although, she confessed, she never knew why she needed it.

And as District Attorney Nicole Duvé continued to submit packets of photocopied checks from an additional account Ms. McQueeney had at Community Bank, a total of 25 checks were authenticated as being cashed to help Ms. Zeller for a total of $15,451.18.

“Every time I gave her money I said I expected to have this paid back,” Ms. McQueeney said.

When Ms. Duvé asked her how much of that money she saw returned, Ms. McQueeney replied, “Not a penny. Never a bit.”

The checks were either cashed by her or written to Monsignor Lawler, all for the purpose of going to help Ms. Zeller, Ms. McQueeney said.

“I thought I was helping her,” Ms. McQueeney said, and, as a sign of that help, she wrote the letters “TLC” on the memo line of eight of those checks.

“TLC, which stood for tender loving care, because I believed they were going to help Bobbie Jo,” Ms. McQueeney told Ms. Duvé when she was asked what the letters represented.

Ms. McQueeney’s testimony was adjourned and will continue at 8:30 a.m. today.

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