Public Information Officer
WOMAN FACES MORE THAN 50 CHARGES FOR SWINDLING ELDERLY VICTIMS
Sometimes she pretended to be a health care worker checking on insurance. Other times, she would show up at garage sales and talk her way into people’s homes, claiming she wanted to buy their furniture or just wanted to look around because the house was so nice. But it was all a ruse to steal money, wallets and bank cards from unsuspecting, trusting victims as old as 93. On Wednesday, Volusia County Sheriff’s detectives put a stop to the one woman crime spree with the arrest of Sonia Gautier.
The 60-year-old Gautier (DOB: 8/10/56) was initially arrested Wednesday on charges of burglary, theft of a credit card, illegal use of a credit card and seven counts of dealing in stolen property. On Thursday, Sheriff’s detectives filed an additional 44 felony charges against Gautier. And detectives believe there are even more victims out there than they already know about.
Gautier has been linked to four thefts in Deltona and is believed to be responsible for victimizing at least two other people in cases being investigated by the Orange City Police Department. But based on Gautier’s financial transactions uncovered by Sheriff’s detectives, they believe there are more victims. In Deltona, the victims include an 80-year-old woman who was approached by a stranger in her front yard who struck up a conversation about houses for sale in the area, a 93-year-old man who was distracted by a woman claiming to be a health care worker and a 69-year-old woman who was having a garage sale. In another case, a 78-year-old woman also was having a garage sale when a neighbor who came by to help ended up being victimized. Three of the four victims had their wallets stolen surreptitiously, while the 93-year-old man had money and credit cards taken when the stranger claiming to be a health care representative offered to help him find his insurance card from his wallet. The thefts started in September, with the most recent one occurring about 10 days ago. “The victims are trustworthy and allowed the suspect to enter their homes out of good nature, and the suspect took advantage of that by being deceptive,” detectives wrote in the charging affidavit. “Based on the statements made and evidence on scene, Detective McGuire determined that Gautier intentionally and knowingly surreptitiously and systematically located elderly individuals with the intent of stealing their credit cards.”
The investigation revealed that immediately after the thefts, Gautier would go to Walmart and load money onto pre-paid cards. Usually she would make small food purchases with the stolen bank cards for items such as bananas, plantains or turnips and load $200 at a time onto gift cards during the same transactions. Detectives moved in on Gautier on Wednesday when they learned she was selling her furniture and getting ready to move. During questioning, Gautier couldn’t explain how money from the stolen credit cards had been transferred to her gift cards. But detectives already had plenty of evidence against her, including surveillance video of her using the stolen cards. They also tracked approximately 40 transactions that Gautier made on the gift cards. One, for example, was for a Nintendo game system that she gave to her husband’s son as a Christmas present. Another was for an oil change. Detectives recovered several gift cards and Walmart receipts from Gautier’s purse on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Gautier was booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach on $65,000 bond for the charges associated with one of the Deltona cases. On Thursday, Sheriff’s detectives filed 44 more charges that will up Gautier’s total combined bond to $335,000. The new charges include money laundering, obtaining property by fraud, two counts of burglary, two counts of theft from a person 65 years of age or older, three counts of theft, three counts of illegal use of a credit card and 32 counts of dealing in stolen property. Anyone who believes they were victimized by Gautier is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (386) 860-7030.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4589 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151