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Long IslandNassau

Judge drives up bail of suspected swindler of woman, 84

John Mondello leave Nassau County Police headquarters in

John Mondello leave Nassau County Police headquarters in Mineola. He is accused of bilking an elderly woman out of more than $1 million (Friday, October 30, 2009) Credit: /Photo by Howard Schnapp

Rejecting a bail amount acceptable to prosecutors and the financial adviser accused of bilking an elderly woman out of $1 million, a Nassau judge ordered the suspected swindler jailed last week on more than seven times that amount.

With a bail bondwoman in the courtroom Friday ready to sign off on his release, suspected swindler John Mondello instead went off to jail, his family unable to post the $750,000 set by Judge Donald H. Birnbaum. Prosecutors asked for bail of $100,000.

"I'm very concerned about the exploitation of [the] . . . elderly," Birnbaum told Mondello, who pleaded not guilty to first-degree grand larceny and other charges in the alleged fleecing of the 84-year-old from Queens.

The judge rebuffed an impassioned argument by Mondello's defense attorney, David Scott Smith of Uniondale, that his 61-year-old client showed he's not a flight risk by staying in town during the police investigation and then voluntarily surrendering to detectives.

Said the judge: "At his age, I don't know if any amount of bail would be sufficient," especially given that the grand larceny charge alone could carry mandatory jail time.

Mondello, of Glen Head, worked for a Westbury-based John Hancock Financial Services affiliate when he tricked the woman into giving him cash and writing checks payable directly to him, all of which he kept instead of investing on her behalf, police said.

According to a prosecutor at Mondello's arraignment Friday, Mondello "personally drove" the woman to a local bank to withdraw money.

The case is due back in court Wednesday. Police say he got caught because the woman's niece began examining her aunt's finances.