Lonely and slowly losing his mental sharpness, Ted Trujillo drained his savings to help his Ukrainian love interest, “Katerina”, come to the United States, according to a new lawsuit.
The man from Chimayó, 77, had already spent $ 180,000 – obtained by refinancing his house twice – when he decided to apply for a loan from an acquaintance so that he could overcome the last obstacles in the way He and Katerina, whom he had met at an online dating site, to be united, says the lawsuit, filed on his behalf in December in state district court.
Trujillo told the man he needed $ 60,000 to help Katerina get her personal funds released from a United Nations “hold”, which would allow her access to millions of dollars. There would be a lot of money to pay off the loan, Trujillo believed.
According to his complaint, the retired lawyer, who is the father of Rio Arriba County District Attorney Adan Trujillo, was subsequently victimized by con artists closer to his home, who took advantage of his diminished mental state to quit of an undeveloped piece of property that he owned. along the Santa Cruz River.
The lawsuit lists 11 individuals and businesses and several “John and Jane Does” as defendants.
Spain’s Mukhtiar Khalsa is named as one of the men accused of exploiting Ted Trujillo.
Khalsa has previously been charged with robbing residents of New Mexico. The state attorney general’s office accused him in 2016 of using his foreclosure assistance company, Praedium Preservation, to take advantage of desperate homeowners who asked for his help, in part by charging them for assistance that ‘he never provided. This case is still pending.
“We are pursuing civil fraud action against this individual and are working with federal authorities on the romance scam,” Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote in an email sent Monday by his spokesman Jeri Mares.
“We have established accountability and are working to [the case] at trial this summer, ”Mares wrote.
Ted Trujillo and Khalsa had met years earlier when Trujillo represented a mutual association of domestic water consumers, according to the lawsuit; Khalsa served on its board of directors.
Trujillo contacted Khalsa in December 2019, telling her he needed to discuss a “very private” matter. When they met, the complaint says, Trujillo told Khalsa about Katerina and the $ 60,000 she needed to have her personal fortune released by the UN.
Khalsa should have known that Trujillo had been the victim of an online dating scam, the complaint adds. Still, he agreed to lend the money if Trujillo pledged his undeveloped property along the Santa Cruz River.
Khalsa could not be reached for comment on Monday on the allegations in the complaint.
The lawsuit says Khalsa recruited two other people to help find the $ 60,000: her stepmother and Melanie Milasinovich of Santa Fe, who had worked with Khalsa to offer help to those facing a foreclosure.
They made a deal in which Trujillo received $ 60,000 with the understanding that he would repay $ 120,000 within 30 days – $ 36,000 to Milasinovich, who provided $ 24,000, and $ 84,000 to the mother-in-law. of Khalsa, who provided $ 36,000. She is a defendant in the lawsuit but is not identified by name.
Milasinovich, also accused, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The deal would have carried an annual interest rate of 1,600 percent, according to the Trujillo lawsuit, filed by Albuquerque attorneys David Kramer and Sean McAfee. “Such a loan is manifestly unfair and unreasonable and constitutes abuse of the elderly,” the complaint says, adding that the agreement violates state law on unfair practices.
After Katerina received the $ 60,000, according to the lawsuit, she “continued the romance scam,” claiming that the UN needed an additional $ 30,000 to complete the process of releasing its funds. (She also used Vladlena Kolianova’s name but might not be a real person, according to the complaint.)
In January 2020, according to the lawsuit, Khalsa began calling Ted Trujillo, urging him to repay the loan.
The two began to discuss the possibility of selling the property along the Santa Cruz River to honor the loan.
In March 2020, however, Khalsa suggested that Trujillo refinance his house – for the third time in 18 months – to secure the funds. He put Trujillo in touch with Michael Torres, an Albuquerque loan officer with whom Khalsa had dealt in the past.
Torres, who could not be located for comment on Monday, refinanced the Trujillo home for $ 47,000, according to the lawsuit. He accuses Torres of “failing to guard against elder abuse.”
He adds, “Even Torres’ most basic investigation would have revealed deeply troubling facts and circumstances” with the loan.
When Trujillo attempted to make an international transfer of $ 36,000 in June 2020, his bank refused to make the transfer, citing potential fraud. Also that month, according to the lawsuit, Khalsa first told Trujillo that he believed something fraudulent was happening.
The following month, Trujillo’s sons found out what was going on and intervened. They opened new accounts and changed their father’s phone numbers, making it harder for Khalsa to contact him.
In August 2020, according to the lawsuit, Milasinovich registered the loan agreement with the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office and placed a lien on the river property. Khalsa later told Adan Trujillo that there were two liens on the property for $ 120,000, but said if the property was sold he could offer a loan forgiveness of $ 50,000.
Trujillo’s lawsuit seeks to quash legal documents completed during the alleged overlap schemes and have the loan declared void, unreasonable and unenforceable. It also seeks to collect actual and punitive damages.
“It has been a very emotional and difficult time for our family, and we are doing our best to try to protect my father and his property and try to hold accountable the people who we think took advantage of him,” the son said. from Trujillo, Adan. Trujillo wrote in an email Monday.