‘Ex-liar’ blames cocaine and liquor for mismanaging funds
BY POLLY SEARS
MONTESANO — Describing himself as a reformed pathological liar, Richard Bennett admitted Thursday that he spent nearly $100,000 of an elderly man’s life savings.
But Bennett told a Grays Harbor Superior Court jury that he never meant to defraud 78-year-old John Boyd, whom he called a friend and business partner.
Rather, Bennett said, it was a problem with cocaine and alcohol that caused him to “mismanage” some of the money. “At the end, I used real bad judgment,” the former Aberdeen businessman told the jury.
Charged with one count of first-degree theft by deception, Bennett, 53, of Central Park, told the jury he has offered to pay back the money.
Prosecutors say he bilked Boyd, a retired mill worker and Daily World paper carrier, of most of his life savings.
Bennett befriended Boyd after the victim’s wife died in June 1995. In what prosecutors call a scheme, Bennett had Boyd withdraw $58,300 and $40,000 in two lump sums. Then the
money was deposited in separate bank accounts in the name of Bennett’s ex-wife.
Over a two–month period, Bennett closed out those accounts, using the money to buy everything from new furniture to automobiles, including a 1977 Mercedes Benz that he spent at least $5,000 to restore, according to testimony from prosecution witnesses.
An Aberdeen police sergeant and an FBI agent who investigated and questioned Bennett testified yesterday that Bennett confessed to using some of Boyd’s money on drugs and alcohol.
Sgt. James Clarkson said Bennett also admitted to being a “pathological liar” and in one
phone conversation from Canada told the officer that he wanted to “come home.”
“He was tired of running,” Clarkson said.
Bennett, the defense’s sole witness, paused often in apparent attempt to fight back tears and at one point held his hands up in a “time out” gesture, as he was questioned by his attorney, Don McConnell of Olympia.
Bennett testified that he has indeed had problems with drugs and alcohol.
“You (also) heard that I’m a pathological liar,” he said, then paused, “I am,” he said, adding quietly, “I just don’t do that any more.”
Bennett said he and Boyd have known each other since Bennett moved to Aberdeen around 1990. Boyd was the paper carrier to his home at the time. Bennett testified that
eventually he came to know Boyd “very well.” In 1993, Boyd asked him to help retrieve a pickup truck that he had sold but had not been paid for.
In December 1995, Boyd stopped by Bennett’s mail service business in downtown
Aberdeen and told him that his wife had died.
At the time, Bennett said, he had no idea that Boyd had any money. In fact, he said, he and his wife would often give Boyd tips for delivering their newspaper and saved their aluminum cans for him.
“That’s how we thought he was,” Bennett said. Bennett said he and Boyd
became friends. They had breakfast and lunch and sometimes dinner together
almost every day and each had a key to the other’s house.
He said their business partnership began after Boyd told him that family members were feuding over his will.
Boyd, whom Bennett described as “pretty crusty,” came to his house in March 1996 cussing and “almost in tears” over a relative who wanted a larger share of his estate, the defendant told the jury.
It was when he tried to help Boyd with that situation that he learned that Boyd had a
retirement account worth more than $104,000. Bennett said Boyd, whose wife Gladys had handled the financial matters, also didn’t realize he had the account.
“I swear to God he did not know about it,” Bennett said. Bennett said he and Boyd entered into an agreement where the defendant would withdraw funds, and they would invest the money in “places unknown” to Boyd’s relatives.
Bennett said the two lump sums were taken out of Boyd’s account to buy property. Bennett testified that he also tried to invest some of his own money but that fell through because it was tied up in Canada and the exchange rate to the American dollar was poor.
Bennett said the 1977 Mercedes Benz 450 SLC — which he called “a very rare model” — was
another investment, one Boyd was very much aware of, having been present when the car was purchased. Boyd was also of sound mind at the time, the defendant told the jury.
“Did Mr. Boyd at any time tell you that he didn’t want you to do these things?” Bennett was asked by his attorney. “Never,” Bennett responded.
Bennett testified that he began “mismanaging” the funds after he went to Canada to be with a cousin who was undergoing surgery for a brain tumor that later proved fatal. “It was a situation where the stress caused me to start drinking,” Bennett said. “When I came back to Aberdeen, I was pretty well drinking every day.”
The trial was scheduled to continue this morning with the prosecution’s cross examination. Attorneys expected the case to go to the jury some time today.
The Daily World, Friday, February 20, 1998.