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Zeller indicted for scamming priest, others out of $300K

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CANTON — The case against a Norfolk woman accused of conning a priest and others out of hundreds of thousands of dollars took another step forward Thursday with her indictment on grand larceny and other charges.

A St. Lawrence County grand jury handed up eight counts against Bobbie Jo Zeller, 36, of 72 W. Main St., Apt. 4: 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.

According to the indictment, Ms. Zeller “engaged in a scheme constituting a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud more than one person or to obtain property from more than one person by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises.”

A Waddington priest, Monsignor Robert L. Lawler, has told investigators that Ms. Zeller received more than $300,000 from him and his parish after plying them with stories about her desperate need for cash to care for an ailing son.

The indictment against Ms. Zeller alleges that she stole from Monsignor Lawler “by false pretense” and “by false promise” between fall 2010 and January of this year.

The case against Ms. Zeller culminated Jan. 8 with three fake checks she is accused of passing to the priest for $300,000, $25,000 and $6,800, purportedly to pay him back. After years of charity, he became suspicious and contacted a diocesan official, who confirmed the forgeries with the bank.

Thursday’s indictment includes charges for each of those checks.

The indictment also alleges that Ms. Zeller used false pretenses to steal $3,000 from another person, June H. McQueeney, Waddington, between fall 2010 and January.

Ms. Zeller, who is being represented by attorney Brian S. Pilatzke, is being held without bail at the St. Lawrence County jail.

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