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Zeller sentenced to up to seven years in prison in Potsdam scamming case

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CANTON — A Norfolk woman found guilty in April of scamming a Potsdam woman out of more than $3,000 was sentenced Monday in St. Lawrence County Court to up to seven years in prison on two counts of third-degree grand larceny.

Bobbie Jo Zeller, 37, of 72 W. Main St., was found guilty April 8, following a four-day trial, of stealing money from Gloria J. Dietze. From August 2011 to September 2012, Ms. Zeller told Ms. Dietze and her brother, Robert W. Dietze, that she needed the money to care for her ill son.

Ms. Zeller was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 3 to 7 years in prison as a second felony offender.

Her attorney, Brian D. Pilatzke, said she had expressed remorse for her actions. He requested that County Judge Jerome J. Richards consider that and sentence her to the minimum of 2 to 4 years in prison.

“She said she had remorse for the things that happened the way that they did,” Mr. Pilatzke said. “She said she had intentions to pay back what she borrowed but just didn’t have the means.”

Given the opportunity to address the court before sentencing, Ms. Zeller chose to remain silent.

“It’s very difficult to find you are remorseful,” Judge Richards said. “Your history is just replete with stealing and scheming, and the only way it is going to stop is if you go to prison for a long time.”

Judge Richards said he had prosecuted her twice when he was district attorney more than a decade ago. “It’s not worth saying anything further,” Judge Richards said. “You have a bad habit. There is no way of stopping you because you just won’t come to grips with the fact that you can’t do this to people.”

Judge Richards said he will suggest to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that Ms. Zeller serve out her entire seven years in prison and that she not be eligible for any rehabilitation programs.

“Once, maybe twice in my career, I have written to the Department of Corrections,” Judge Richards said. “When she becomes eligible for parole, I will do it again, saying that she doesn’t deserve it. She belongs in prison.”

Special prosecutor Nicole M. Duve is preparing to prosecute Ms. Zeller in a separate trial on two counts of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree grand larceny and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

The charges stem from allegations that Ms. Zeller used false pretenses to steal more than $300,000 from the late Monsignor Robert L. Lawler, St. Mary’s Catholic Church parishioner June H. McQueeney of Waddington and others from fall 2010 to January 2013.

That trial is pending Ms. Duve’s appeal of Judge Richards’s Sept. 24 dismissal of three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument against Ms. Zeller. His dismissal was based on a lack of sufficient evidence.

Ms. Duve was appointed special prosecutor in the case because District Attorney Mary E. Rain had represented Ms. Zeller before she was elected.

Oral arguments are expected to be heard in that appeal sometime in October or November, Mr. Pilatzke said.

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