Thursday, May 17, 2007

Elderly Victim in Financial Abuse Case Dies

By ALISHA WYMAN The Union Democrat

Less than two weeks after a Sonora man was sentenced to jail for elderly financial abuse, the victim in the criminal case has died.

Ross Anderson died Thursday at a San Andreas hospital. He was 98.

Attila Horvath, a Sonora resident and former Pacific Grove police officer, reported to jail on Friday, nearly 24 hours after Anderson succumbed to an illness.

Horvath was convicted in February of one count of felony financial abuse for taking more than $10,000 from Anderson.

Superior Court Judge Eric DuTemple sentenced him April 27 to four months in jail, five years probation and 300 hours of community service. Horvath must also pay restitution and attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

Anderson's death does not mean Horvath will no longer have to pay restitution, District Attorney Donald Segerstrom said. The money will go to Anderson's estate.

Anderson had lived with Horvath and his family for six years, until February 2006, when he moved to Mark Twain Convalescent Hospital following a surgery.

Horvath had Anderson write 12 blank checks cashed for a total of $12,275 between January and May 2006. The final check for $1,725 bounced, Horvath's attorney has said.

The trial took an emotional toll on Anderson during his last year of life, long-time friend and Sonora resident Wanda Spenny said.

"He trusted this person, and to find out that it was all a facade was not easy for him," she said.

But the guilty verdict brought a sense of relief, she said.

"He was very happy about that because he felt that justice was doing what it was supposed to do," she said.

Spenny knew Anderson for almost 25 years, and she described his as a "gentleman" and a "kind-hearted, good person" with a keen interest in politics.

"He was my very best friend and like a father to me," she said.

Horvath declined to comment, referring questions to Webster, who could not be reached for comment.

Webster has filed an appeal on Horvath's behalf.

The day of Horvath's sentencing, Anderson filed a civil suit against Horvath alleging fraud, elder abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Court documents allege Horvath told Anderson in July 2002 that he needed to transfer the title of his property on Shaws Flat Road to "protect" it.

Part of the property's ownership was later transferred to Michael Thompson, to whom Horvath owed money for the care of his mother in Thompson's nursing home. Thompson is also named as a defendant in the civil suit.

"Defendant Horvath was using his position as a caretaker to take advantage of the confidence that had been placed in him to attempt to obtain Plaintiff's property," the document says.

The suit also describes how Horvath took Anderson's money and used it for his own, personal purposes.

It asks for punitive damages and for Horvath and Thompson to be taken off the deed.

"Ross was simply seeking to restore the title to the way it was before he came into the picture," said Jennifer Lothert, the attorney representing Anderson in the suit.

During the criminal trial, the defense countered that Anderson offered to put Horvath on the deed.

Lothert was unsure what will become of the suit now that Anderson is deceased.

A representative named in his will could pursue it through his estate or it could be dismissed.

Anderson's wife, Clara Anderson, died in 1984, and he had no other family, Spenny said.

Contact Alisha Wyman at or 588-4527.

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