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Business owner accused of stealing elderly clients' life savings enters plea

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

John Borho, 94, trusted Leon Randy Sinclair with his life savings, worth over $3 million.

So did Mary Smith, 75, who said she handed over $600,000 to Sinclair.

Both Borho and Smith thought Sinclair was investing their life savings into annuities, but what Sinclair really invested their money in was himself, authorities said.

"You can certainly get away with more money with a friendly smile and developing a trust relationship than you can with a gun or a knife," Harris County Assistant DA Harry Lawrence said.

Being shot or cut may have been less painful for Borho and Smith.

While Sinclair lived in this million-dollar Memorial-area home, Smith who once had over half a million dollars, shops at the dollar store and makes meatloaf with Spam.

"Hell," Smith said when asked what life has been like for her due to Sinclair.

Authorities say Smith and Borho are far from being Sinclair's only victims.

"Right now, I know of at least 30 individuals who purchased these annuities," Lawrence said.

And all of them are over 50 years old, authorities said.  After our first report aired Sinclair received criminal charges.

He recently pled no contest to a charge of misapplication of fiduciary property.  That means he's not admitting to stealing people's money, but he's not denying it either.

On March 14, a judge will decide his fate.

"It's a first degree felony so the punishment range is anywhere from 5 to 99 years or life in the penitentiary and up to a $10,000 fine, " Lawrence said.

Mary Smith won a civil judgment against Sinclair for over a million dollars, but her attorney Lewis Jost said Sinclair appears to be broke.

"He had some losses and he tried to recover them by making very speculative investments and they went down the tubes," Jost said. "So instead of recovering the money he lost, he lost more and more money that he was taking from more and more people."

Since he has no criminal history, Sinclair could possibly get probation but for his victims, that would only add insult to injury.

"I think justice demands that Mr. Sinclair spend a lot of time in prison because he has destroyed a lot of lives and done a lot of harm to a lot of people," Jost said.

Through his attorney, Sinclair declined comment.

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