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Woman arrested for defrauding elderly may have targeted Palm Springs

By Samantha Cortese, KESQ News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2 Reporter, samantha.cortese@cbslocal2.com
KESQ & CBS Local 2 News Staff, newsline3@kesq.com
Published On: Sep 02 2014 06:54:49 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 02 2014 06:54:00 PM CDT

Tammi "Gina" Palasini was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Palm Springs for crimes in Mississippi.  Concerns over her local business Senior Benefits Consulting Group.

PALMS SPRINGS, Calif. -

A woman is in jail for defrauding the elderly and veterans out of more than  $1,000,000. Many of her victims could be right here in the Coachella Valley.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 reporter Samantha Cortese looked into the investigation of Gina Palasini on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Law enforcement and U.S. Marshals confirm Palasini was arrested Friday at her home on E Cajon Dr. in Palm Springs. Tammi "Gina" Palasini was booked as a fugitive from justice at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside without bail.

People we spoke with described Palasini as a professional, hard-working woman who claimed she could help the elderly and veterans get benefits and maximize their life savings. Palasini allegedly scammed those same people out of more than $1,000,000 in Mississippi - and now we are learning - California.

Greta Cox leases a building in Palm Springs, located at 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive. She said Palasini rented the third floor for her business, 'Senior Benefits Consulting Group'.

Palasini, shown in a photo from the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson Mississippi, would offer to file paperwork for seniors and veterans for a fee.

They may never see the benefits, and if they do, victims say someone forged their signatures on some of the documents.

Cox told us an elderly woman came looking for Palasini, saying she had paid $800 for services she never received.

Later, Cox was the one knocking. Palasini didn't pay her rent, totaling tens of thousands of dollars, and in the middle of the night she left without a word.

Palasini offered her services to both the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert and the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs -- where she held a seminar.

"We began hearing back from seniors that attended the seminar, that they felt they were being pressured and it just felt very uncomfortable," said Jack Newby, Director of Development for the Mizell Senior Center. "It was someone promising us the world, and that always makes me step back a little bit. And we observed and heard the complaints, that's when we decided we didn't want to do business with her."

Newby said he asked Palasini to leave the property on two occasions because she was soliciting in the lobby. That's where she met veteran Ron Webster.

"I went there last month and paid the $795 that I owed them.  And I was about to go over there today to pay my balance of $395," Webster said in the lobby of the Mizell Senior Center. He said he met Palasini there before she was asked to leave. He was on his way to pay her when he heard about our investigation. He felt deceived for more than one reason.

"She was a really nice lady. In fact, I was about to ask her on a date to be honest with you and I'm very surprised to find out the thing I found out about her."

KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 are continuing to investigate Palasini. If you, or someone you know may have been scammed by her, or the Senior Benefits Consulting Group, email Samantha.Cortese@KESQ.com.

You can also contact Samantha on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information about her alleged scams in Mississippi, click here.