(CNS): It took a jury of four women and three men less than an hour and a half Thursday to find Antonio (Toni) Paolini (77) guilty on one count of theft in relation to money he took from a client who wanted to purchase a piece of land but spent it on rent in an effort to keep his business afloat. Paolini claimed that he had used the $51,600, which was handed over to his real estate agency by Joana Triana, with the intention of paying it back but a much hoped for sale fell through. Paolini had admitted being stupid but denied being dishonest.
Paolini who was, until this guilty verdict, a man of good character who also has serious health problems, was bailed until sentencing at a later date after his defence attorney, Amelia Fosuhene, requested a social inquiry report.
During the short trial this week before visiting judge, Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop, the court heard that Triana never received the land she believed was going to be hers within a matter of weeks of handing over the cash, and she has never been reimbursed.
As she presented the crown’s case to the jury, prosecutor Toyin Salako had said that Paolini had duped Triana out of her cash and had done so dishonestly, as he had tried to fob her off with claims that the land was complicated by a restriction, which was not true. She also said that opportunities to tell Triana he had spent the money were ignored.
It was not until she pressed the issue several months after handing over the money, when she realised the transfer had never happened, that Paolini admitted he had used her cash. He then converted the payment into a loan agreement, something she had reluctantly agreed to because of his promise to pay back the money. But he did not meet the terms of that agreement and the cash remains unpaid.
Paolini claimed that he had got himself into a financial mess through challenges in the real estate business and poor management. But because he was expecting a major sale to go through, which he believed would have sorted his money difficulties, he used Triana’s cash when his landlord threatened to change the locks on the business. Accepting that he was very stupid, he said he had been thinking about keeping the business going to save his employees when he used the money with the intention of paying it back as soon as possible.