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Alleged victim testifies in advance of $300,000 fraud trial

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CANTON — A Waddington woman testified Tuesday that she loaned money to Bobbie Jo Zeller with “tender loving care.”

The testimony of June H. McQueeney, 81, began Tuesday afternoon at the St. Lawrence County Courthouse.

Mrs. McQueeney is just one person allegedly defrauded by Zeller, 36, of 72 W. Main St., Norfolk, who is accused of bilking more than $300,000 out of dozens of others. Among her alleged victims are a retired priest and his parishoners.

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 that Mrs. McQueeney had been defrauded of $3,000.

Zeller 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.

Mrs. McQueeney said she is a friend of retired Waddington priest the Rev. Msgr. Robert L. Lawler, a principal alleged victim in the case.

Monsignor Lawler allegedly had more than $300,000 stolen from him and his parish by Zeller, who allegedly manipulated him into giving her money claiming she desperately needed cash to care for an ailing son.

“We were very good friends,” Mrs. McQueeney said of Msgr. Lawler. “He said he had been helping Bobbie Jo.”

That was in 2010.

Msgr. Lawler hadn’t asked Ms. McQueeney to help Zeller, she said.

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

Mrs. McQueeney said that savings was eventually depleted 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.

“It all went to Bobbie Jo,” she said. “I cashed the checks and gave her the money.”

Mrs. McQueeney said Zeller continued to say she needed money, but Mrs. McQueeney never knew quite what it was for.

District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé authenticated a total of 25 checks from Mrs. McQueeney as being cashed to help Zeller, for a total of $15,451.18.

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

When Ms. Duve asked her how much of that money she saw returned, Mrs. McQueeney said none of it.

“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, stood for tender loving care, because I believed they were going to help Bobbie Jo,” Mrs. McQueeney told Ms. Duvé.

Mrs. McQueeney’s testimony will continue this morning in County Court.

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