The case involving a fraudulent sale of a $2 million dollar ranch came to a close Wednesday. The month-long trial centered around the fake death of a woman who had claimed to be French heiress.
The 15-acre horse ranch belonged to Dr. Michael Weilert, Director of Pathology at Community Regional Medical Centers. In court, he confessed to faking his own wife's death. "We know that they lied about her death. We know that they lied about the fact there was an estate," said Daniel Spitzer, the plaintiffs' attorney.
Weilert's wife, Genevieve was too sick to appear in court during the trial but is alive, despite a 2007 obituary. She changed her name to Genevieve De Montremare, heiress to a French royal family. But in reality she was a former waitress from Lindsay.
Weilert admitted he tried selling the ranch on behalf of Genevieve's French estate. "By referring to the barn in the arena as Genevieve's grave marks, by telling the plaintiffs he had moved his daughter to a new home in Fresno, quote: 'where we don't have a daily reminder of her mother's loss,'" said Spitzer.
The southern California family that purchased the property says the Weilerts made up the elaborate hoax to drive up its value.
"That evidence was designed to incite you, to make you mad. To make you mad at Dr. Weilert," said the defendant's attorney, Steven Paganetti. He said his client was embarrassed and humiliated after lying about his wife's death -- but claims the fib had no influence on the sale of the property. "This was a sale involving knowledgeable and sophisticated buyers who knew exactly what they were doing, exactly what they were getting into when they made the purchase of this property," said Paganetti.
The jury must now determine if there's sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty of fraud.