Woman Who Scammed Coast Guard Veteran Gets 10-Year Prison Sentence

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Handcuffs. Getty Images
Handcuffs. Getty Images

A woman accused of scamming an 82-year-old DeLand, Florida, veteran out of his life savings was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison.

Jessica Henry, 32, on false pretenses convinced Edward Wallace Breland, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, to give her $56,000.

The veteran's plight drew a response from many people wanting to help him, and the Florida American Legion donated more than $26,000 to Breland since June to help him get back on his feet.

Circuit Judge James R. Clayton cited Henry's repeated violations of a court order not to contact Breland in sentencing her to a decade behind bars during a hearing at the Volusia County Courthouse. Henry had no significant prior criminal record.

Related: Woman Accused of Scamming Veteran Continues to Call Him, Loses Jail House Phone Access, Prosecutors Say

"You jumped off the deep end this time," Clayton said.

"I know," Henry said.

Clayton continued, reminding her that two judges, including himself, had ordered her not to contact Breland, but she disregarded those orders.

"It was obvious you did because he bonded you out," Clayton said. "There's another $1,000 gone. And I saw you sitting over here and I said, "'You will have no contact with him.'"

"I revoked your bond and you're telling me you don't know why, but you knew why you contacted him," Clayton continued. "After the fact, you still contacted him. I did my very first order forbidding somebody from using that telephone at the county jail. You will not follow any court order."

Henry pleaded to be allowed to remain free on probation so she could attend drug rehabilitation. She said she was disabled from lupus and received $900 a month in disability benefits. She said she would be able to pay Breland $400 a month from that benefit if she were given probation.

Clayton said it would be unrealistic to believe that restitution would be paid given Henry's health and Breland's age.

"Mr. Breland is the classic example of an elderly person. He is an elderly veteran. He's vulnerable, and he trusted you. You took complete advantage of him."

Breland testified during the hearing and used ear phones because he had difficulty hearing the proceedings. It was sometimes difficult to understand what he said.

He said he would rather get his money back than see Henry go to prison but added he did not believe she could repay him.

Clayton adjudicated Henry guilty of the charges. Henry had entered no contest pleas on Sept. 12 to conspiracy to commit exploitation of an elderly person, a third-degree felony; and exploitation of an elderly person and organized scheme to defraud, both second-degree felonies.

The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and each of the second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Henry entered an open plea, meaning there was no agreement with prosecutors limiting the judge's sentence.

Henry's boyfriend, Gregory Dushan, 29, is also charged in the case. Dushan is accused of posing as a probation officer and calling Breland to threaten that if he didn't pay arrests costs, Henry would be locked up. The couple were initially arrested in May by DeLand police.

Dushan is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail on $35,000 bail. He is awaiting trial; his next hearing is Nov. 26.

Prosecutor Sarah Thomas, who filed a motion to revoke Henry's access to the jail house phone, asked for the 10 years in prison, given Henry's violations of the no contact order.

Henry's defense attorney had asked for probation.

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This article was written by Frank Fernandez from Daytona Beach News - Journal, The and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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