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Published: Friday, 2/15/2008

2 sentenced for stealing from an elderly woman Tracy Brant

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Despite his own contention that he didn't know that his handling of an elderly woman's money was wrong, Douglas Brant was labeled a "stalker" yesterday by a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge because of the deception he used to steal thousands of dollars.

Judge Gene Zmuda sentenced Brant to four years in prison for the systematic theft of more than $100,000 from an elderly woman he met at the Eleanor M. Kahle Senior Center.

The judge also ordered that Brant, a former bus driver for the senior center, pay the estate of Colnetta "Corky" Raczko $101,000 in restitution, an amount agreed to by Brant and the county prosecutor's office.

Brant, 57, pleaded no contest Sept. 17 to a charge of theft from an elderly or disabled adult in excess of $100,000.

His wife, Tracy, pleaded no contest to a lower felony charge of theft from an elderly or disabled adult and yesterday was placed on probation for five years.

The Brants of 4223 Dogwood Lane were convicted for diverting money from Mrs. Raczko's accounts for personal and household expenses after he gained her trust and was named durable power of attorney for her financial affairs.

"I think you didn't keep records because that was part of your plan," Judge Zmuda told Douglas Brant. "Do I know if this was your intent when you first befriended her? I don't know. It doesn't matter."

The charges stem from an investigation that began in June, 2005 - three months before Mrs. Raczko died at age 83 on Sept. 5, 2005 - after Huntington Bank alerted authorities to frequent and large withdrawals from her bank account.

In July, 2003, there was nearly $98,850 in Mrs. Raczko's account, a figure that dropped to about $6,500 just before her death two years later, county Assistant Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson said.

And from that final amount, Brant paid for Mrs. Raczko's funeral and even bought flowers for her service to which he signed his name.

"He targeted this woman, befriended her, got her power of attorney, and gutted her accounts," Mr. Anderson said.

"He was her trustee. He was supposed to make sure she wasn't taken advantage of and, in the end, he was the one who took advantage of her."

Douglas Brant went to work at the senior center in 2002 as a bus driver. It was there he met Mrs. Raczko.

Yesterday, he apologized for his involvement in the case, saying that he learned from his actions. "I didn't know some of the things I did were wrong," he said. "I now know that it was wrong."

Douglas Brant is no longer working and was on disability. Tracy Brant is a medical technician at Toledo Hospital.

Judge Zmuda ordered Tracy Brant, as part of her probation, to pay $5,000 of the total restitution owed and to perform 100 hours of community service.

Defense attorney Sheldon Wittenberg declined to comment after the hearing, but told Judge Zmuda before the sentencing that his clients began their relationship with Mrs. Raczko because they wanted to help her.

He said Douglas Brant did perform many jobs for her around her house and would often purchase items that she needed.

He added that the couple has two teenage children living at home.

As part of the plea agreement reached in September, Judge Zmuda dismissed at the request of the prosecutor's office a racketeering charge - engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity - that would have carried a 10-year minimum sentence.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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