David Del Rio is taken into custody following his plea deal on March 2. The former financial adviser to murdered widow Betty Cabral was sentenced to 15 years in prison followed by 15 years of probation. Jim Rassol/The Coastal Star
By Rich Pollack
It’s been more than four years since the former financial adviser accused of bilking Maureen Forte’s aunt and uncle out of almost $3 million was arrested, and only now can she and her family find comfort in knowing he’ll be spending time in prison.
On March 2, 39-year-old David Del Rio pleaded guilty to 36 felony counts in connection with the theft of millions of dollars from 85-year-old widow Elizabeth “Betty” Cabral and her late husband, William, 88, who died a year earlier.
As part of the plea agreement, Del Rio was sentenced to 15 years in state prison followed by 15 years of probation. He also agreed to turn over two properties he owned or was part owner of in Lehigh Acres near Fort Myers to Cabral’s estate.
“Our family has some relief because he’s going to jail,” said Forte, in comments she made after speaking to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffery Gillen during the hearing. “But it’s never going to be enough, because nothing is going to undo what’s been done.”
In addition to accepting the prison sentence and agreeing to the property transfer, Del Rio agreed that he understands a homicide investigation into the death of Betty Cabral remains open and that he receives no “promises of leniency, nor immunities” as a result of the plea.
Betty Cabral was found in her Highland Beach apartment with her throat cut almost five years ago. There have been no arrests made in that case.
“You understand that this deal, as sweet as it is, has nothing to do with the homicide involving Elizabeth Cabral?,” the judge asked.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop more than 35 felony charges and to give Cabral’s former financial adviser credit for 116 days of time he served in the Palm Beach County Jail. He was under house arrest following his release from jail on bond.
Under terms of the deal, Del Rio pleaded guilty to several counts each of exploiting an elderly person, money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, fraudulent use of personal identification information and grand theft from a person 65 or older.
Defense attorney Michael Salnick said that had Del Rio gone to trial — which had been scheduled for early this month — and been convicted of the 36 counts he pleaded guilty to, the shortest possible sentence he could have received under state sentencing guidelines would have been 71 years.
Like Forte and even Del Rio, Salnick expressed relief that the case, which lingered during the COVID years, has come to a conclusion.
“I am happy that we were able to resolve this case for Mr. Del Rio,” he said.
In brief comments to the court, Del Rio appeared remorseful, saying he unfortunately couldn’t take back his actions, and apologized, expressing gratitude to the judge for accepting the deal.
“I feel it’s time to move on,” he said.
In addition to Forte, another of Betty Cabral’s relatives, niece Theresa Regan told the judge via Zoom how she kept asking her aunt to come back to live in her home state of Massachusetts, but that she always wanted to stay in Florida.
Regan said that the last time she spoke to her aunt, Cabral told her that she wanted to come back home but that Del Rio told her she couldn’t afford to go.
“I hate him for that,” Regan said. “That just goes to show what kind of person he is.”
Forte, during comments in court, told the judge a little about her aunt and uncle and how they enjoyed living in Florida, where they made friends.
“I just wanted to give the judge an idea of who they were,” she said after the hearing. “They were a lovely couple. This was their dream and then they came upon this opportunistic vulture who ingratiated himself to them and took advantage of them.”
Forte said she was appreciative of the efforts of Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts and Sheriff's Office detectives. She was also grateful to have a chance to let the judge know that allegations from Del Rio that she and her relatives didn’t care about her aunt were untrue.
“I wanted the judge to know how reprehensible the false story he was telling was,” she said.
Maureen Forte, niece of Betty Cabral, returns to her seat after giving a statement from the family during the David Del Rio plea hearing at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. Jim Rassol/The Coastal Star