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Alleged victim testifies in advance of Zeller fraud trial

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

The conditional examination of June H. McQueeney, 81, in the Bobbie Jo Zeller case began Tuesday afternoon in St. Lawrence County Court.

Zeller is accused of having conned Ms. McQueeney out of more than $15,000, according to evidence submitted to the court during the testimony. Previously it had been reported that Ms. McQueeney had been defrauded of $3,000.

Zeller, 36, of 72 W. Main St., Apt. 4, 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 members 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 Bobbie Jo.”

That was in 2010.

Monsignor Lawler hadn’t asked Ms. McQueeney to help in contributing 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 out her Met Life account.

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

Those checks were distributed between November 2010 and January 2011 with an $800 check dated Christmas Eve and a $300 check dated New Year’s Eve.

“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 Zeller continued to tell her that she “needed the money, “although, she confessed, she never knew quite what for.

And as District Attorney Nicole Duve continued to submit packets of photocopied checks from an additional account Ms. McQueeney had at Community Bank NA, 25 checks totaling, of $15,451.18 were authenticated as being cashed for the purpose of helping Zeller.

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

When Ms. Duve 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 out to Monsignor Lawler, all for the purpose of going to help Ms. Zeller, Ms. McQueeney said Tuesday.

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

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

Ms. McQueeney’s testimony will continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in St. Lawrence County Court.

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