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Woman Sentenced In ‘Sweetheart Scam’ Of Elderly Campbell Man

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Samantha Pham (Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office)

Samantha Pham (Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A 30-year-old woman was sentenced Friday for swindling a 67-year-old Campbell man who considered her his fiancée out of thousands of dollars, losing his home in the process.

Samantha Pham, an Elk Grove real estate agent, pleaded guilty earlier this year to felony charges of theft from an elder and aggravated white collar crime. She was sentenced Friday to a year in Santa Clara County jail and three years supervised probation.

Investigators found Pham spent $50,000 of the Campbell man’s money paying off a Nevada casino gambling debt.

The district attorney’s office said since her arrest by Campbell police in January, six other Elk Grove men have also come forward with complaints that Pham had swindled them after meeting on Match.com.

According to a statement from Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard, the scam against the Campbell man started in April of 2009 when Pham met the victim while offering to refinance his home.

The victim apparently became so smitten with Pham that he gave her his ex-wife’s diamond ring and a later a $73,000 Lexus. She also convinced him to pull out equity in his home to invest in her financial company, said Bourland.

Eventually, after the victim no longer was able to afford his home Pham convinced him to sell it, and she pocketed nearly $7,000 in a ‘referral fee,’ according Bourland. By September of 2009, Pham broke off all contact with the victim.

“The victim in this case ended up bankrupt and heart-broken,” said Bourland. “Today, the defendant ended up in jail.”

Investigators found that Pham has gambled away more than $1 million at the Red Hawk Casino in Placerville over three years, according to the DA’s office.

As a condition of Pham’s probation, she is prohibited from working in real estate or using any dating or internet match site and must also get counseling for her gambling addiction.

The district attorney’s office said these so-called ‘sweetheart scams’ – in which people romantically manipulate older, often elderly victims into giving up their money – are on the rise in Santa Clara County.

Pham has paid $250,000 in restitution to the Campbell victim. The DA’s office said the other men who have made complaints about Pham ended up pursuing their claims in civil court.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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