A jury found former real estate broker Antonio Paolini guilty on Thursday of stealing from a client.
The jury of four women and three men deliberated for just over an hour and a half before finding Paolini guilty of theft of $51,600 from a woman who wanted to purchase a parcel of land near one owned by her sister.
Paolini had pleaded not guilty to the charge, but admitting using the client’s money without her permission. He agreed that she never got her money back, nor did she acquire the land. He told the court this week that he still had the hope of paying her back.
The prosecution’s case, conducted by Crown counsel Toyin Salako, was that Paolini took the money and assumed the rights of the owner, using the money without regard to the rights of the lawful owner. The prosecution had to make jurors sure he was acting dishonestly, Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop said in her summing up Thursday.
She said it was accepted that the defendant had taken his client’s money, and she summarized the defense’s position as “Dishonest I was not – stupid I was.”
Paolini, who gave evidence on Wednesday, said the client had paid cash for a piece of land, but the purchase could not go through immediately because there was a restriction on the title. He put the money he received from her into a savings account that his business – Cayman Real Estate Company – had for client funds.
He then used some of that money to pay rent on his business office, telling the jury that the landlord had been about to change the locks at the office. He said he had been expecting money to come in from another deal in a few days and believed he could pay the rent from that money and pay the client back.
Paolini told the court,”I borrowed it for a few days and everything went sour. I made a mistake and I’m being treated like a thief.”
In her summing up, Judge McDonald-Bishop said jurors had to consider whether the defendant realized what he was doing would be regarded as dishonest according to the standards of ordinary honest people. Jury members had to consider Paolini’s own state of mind.
Ms. Salako said his state of mind could be seen from the fact that he did not ask the client’s permission to use her money to pay rent and other business expenses. He did not immediately tell her he had done so. When corresponding with the land seller’s agent, he lied and said his client was asking for more time to complete the deal, when in fact he had spent the money.
After the verdict was delivered, the judge ordered a social inquiry report and continued Paolini’s bail until Friday, Aug. 25.