The Coastal Star

Highland Beach: More charges filed against man accused of stealing from slain widow

David Del Rio sits in court during a bail hearing related to charges he stole nearly $3 million from Betty Cabral of Highland Beach. The judge set bail at $463,000. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Rich Pollack

As Palm Beach County sheriff’s detectives continued investigating the financial records of Elizabeth “Betty” Cabral — the 85-year-old Highland Beach widow who was found murdered in April — they discovered that nearly $2 million more than originally suspected had vanished from her life savings.

As a result, county prosecutors last month filed 44 additional grand theft and exploitation of the elderly charges against David Del Rio, a financial adviser now charged with siphoning close to $3 million from Cabral’s bank accounts.

During the November bond hearing for Del Rio, who has not been charged in connection with the homicide, prosecutors revealed that the killer cut Cabral’s throat while she slept. So far, no arrests have been made in the homicide and the investigation continues.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley set bail at $463,000 for what are now 72 counts against Del Rio. He will remain in county jail until defense attorneys can prove that any money he might use to post bail wasn’t obtained through unauthorized withdrawals from Cabral’s accounts.

During the hearing, prosecutors argued that Del Rio, 35, befriended Cabral and her husband, William, and took advantage of their trust to siphon money from their bank accounts.

“What he was doing was using his relationship with that couple to steal their life savings,” Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes told Kelley. “He spent hours and hours a day so he could exploit them.”

Del Rio has been in custody since his arrest in mid-September, when he was charged with multiple counts of grand theft, exploitation of the elderly, money laundering and fraudulent use of personal identification information.

The additional charges stem from new information investigators found in looking at financial records going back to 2013.

Investigators have said in court documents they think Del Rio fraudulently changed the will of Betty and William Cabral, making himself the sole beneficiary of the estate. William Cabral died in April 2017 at 88.

Fernandes and prosecutor Aleathea McRoberts focused their arguments during the Nov. 5 bail hearing on convincing Kelley that Del Rio was a danger to the community and should have bail set at $1 million. Del Rio’s attorneys asked the judge to set bail between $75,000 and $125,000, claiming Del Rio was neither a flight risk nor someone about whom the community should be concerned.

Defense attorney Michael Salnick presented several witnesses who said Del Rio was a good man and someone Betty Cabral thought of as a son.

“As a friend it’s hard for me to believe all this,” testified Nick Simpson, who knows Del Rio through their church. “The charges that are being thrown at him are so far outside what I know David to be.”


ABOVE: Relatives of Betty Cabral of Highland Beach listen during a bail hearing for David Del Rio, who is charged with stealing nearly $3 million from Cabral before she was slain. BELOW: Family members and friends of Del Rio react during the hearing.

Salnick argued that Del Rio has known since May that he was under investigation but did not try to flee, instead staying at home in Lehigh Acres in Lee County on Florida’s west coast with his wife and four children.

Prosecutors, however, argued that Del Rio would have good reason to flee because of the volume of charges against him.

“He’s facing the potential of life in prison for the crimes he committed,” Fernandes said.

In setting the requirements associated with bail that included house arrest for Del Rio and a prohibition against his contacting any members of the Cabral family, Kelley ordered that Del Rio remain in custody under a hold by prosecutors while attorneys sort out where Del Rio would get the money for bail.

Salnick said he is working toward meeting the state’s requirement that money for bond will not come from ill-gotten gains in order to facilitate Del Rio’s release.

Several friends and family members said they would lend money to Del Rio to help him make bail, but that amounted to less than $15,000.

Relatives of Betty and William Cabral were also called on to testify, with one great- niece saying Betty Cabral was concerned that her money was disappearing.

During her testimony, Maureen Forte said her aunt wept while calling her early this year because Del Rio told her she no longer had enough money to pay for home health care.

Forte reached out to Del Rio asking for a financial accounting of expenses but never heard back, which she said was unusual.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Detective Robert Drake testified that investigators think Del Rio used money taken from the Cabrals to buy expensive cars and to make home improvements.

He said Del Rio purchased two Audi vehicles, a Porsche, a recreational vehicle, two motorcycles, a smart car and a Chevy Silverado for a friend all in one year.

In looking at financial records, detectives could not find evidence that Del Rio used any money from Cabral’s accounts to pay her bills.
“I never found one penny that was paid from Del Rio’s account to care for the Cabrals,” Drake said.

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