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Toronto ‘glitter girl’ faces fraud charges for milking 92-year-old’s trust account

Vincent and Nancy Paul (later Nancy Tsai) in Toronto, December 19, 1984.

Edward Regan/The Globe and Mail

A woman once known as a Toronto high-society "glitter girl" who threw lavish black-tie fundraisers for the city's elite is facing charges of fraud in Florida for allegedly milking the trust account of a 92-year-old friend who has Alzheimer's disease.

Nancy Tsai, who was known in 1980s Toronto by her previous married name, Nancy Paul, was arrested by the Palm Beach Police Department and charged with two felonies: one count of exploitation of an elderly person and one count of grand theft from a person over 65.

Police say Ms. Tsai, 66, used $2.3-million from the trust account to pay for an ocean-front condo, and hundreds of thousands more on luxury cars, furnishings, expensive restaurant meals, chartered jet flights and other travels.

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The alleged victim, Helga Marston, was in an assisted living facility and was considered to have "zero mental capacity" when Ms. Tsai spent most of the money, police allege.

Ms. Tsai was released on $30,000 bond, and a trial has been set for Oct. 14.

The allegations, which have been not been tested in court, are outlined in a 13-page probable-cause affidavit filed by a detective in the Palm Beach Police Department. Ms. Tsai and her lawyer, Joseph Atterbury, did not answer e-mail and telephone messages requesting comment on Friday.

Ms. Marston is a Second World War refugee from Romania whose husband, the investment banker Hunter Marston, died a decade ago. The Marstons had retired to Palm Beach and Ms. Tsai told police that she has known Ms. Marston for 40 years.

Ms. Tsai has been living in Palm Beach since her marriage and 2006 divorce from the late Wall Street fund manager Gerald Tsai.

Raised in the Ontario village of Midhurst, Ms. Tsai was born in Barrie as Nancy Raeburn in 1946. After a decade-long career as an Air Canada flight attendant recruiter and grooming adviser, she married millionaire businessman Vince Paul in 1979 and started the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in 1986.

In her 1993 book, The Glitter Girls, Toronto society writer Rosemary Sexton described Ms. Tsai as a hard worker and born leader with an inexhaustible supply of patience and niceness. She was also skilled at ignoring the petty nastiness that came with rising to the top of Toronto society, Ms. Sexton wrote.

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Ms. Tsai peppered her speech with pretentious French expressions and overdramatized her every move, Ms. Sexton wrote. Figure skater Toller Cranston once jokingly nicknamed the socialite Nancy von Raeburn de Paul.

According to the affidavit by Palm Springs Detective Daniel Wilkinson that was filed in court, the police began the investigation four months ago.

That was when financial regulators raised concerns about Dennis Melchior, a UBS Financial Services broker who worked for Ms. Marston and was Ms. Tsai's boyfriend.

According to the affidavit, Ms. Marston opened a UBS trust account in 2011 and granted Ms. Tsai, a long-time friend, power of attorney, and later named her trustee.

Ms. Marston has dementia and Alzheimer's disease and was admitted to the Lourdes Noreen McKeen assisted living facility in West Palm Beach in February, 2013.

Between January, 2012, and April, 2013, Ms. Tsai is alleged to have withdrawn large sums from Ms. Marston's trust account, including the $2.3-million for the Palm Beach penthouse. The affidavit says UBS managers refused to let Ms. Tsai put her name on the sales deed in April of last year.

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To complete the transaction, Ms. Marston had to initial each page of the sale agreement. According to a secretary who witnessed the April 16 signing, "Nancy Tsai, who was also present, assisted her by whispering the meaning of each page to Marston," the affidavit said.

She also allegedly purchased a $104,000 four-door Mercedes S550 and a $170,000 two-door Bentley Continental GT V-8 Coupe, which were registered with her as sole owner. She also used the trust to lease a Mercedes E350S4 for four years, the affidavit said.

The document says Ms. Tsai spent $28,000 to charter a round-trip private jet from West Palm Beach to Toronto and back on Feb. 7, 2013.

Ms. Tsai is also alleged to have used Ms. Marston's American Express card to pay for several Delta Airlines flights between West Palm Beach and New York, the affidavit said.

The police document said the Amex card was also used pay for a total of $18,000 in restaurant meals, including a $7,762 bill at at Café L'Europe, which boasts that it is for "movers and shakers," a $3,726 meal at the French bistro Chez Jean Pierre, a $2,418 meal at the Palm Beach Grill and a $1,102 bill from Flager Steakhouse.

The detective also listed suspicious purchases of furniture, lingerie, limousine service and an invoice from the Bloomingdale's department store.

The affidavit further alleges Ms. Marston amended her will to make Ms. Tsai and her daughter, Sarah, the beneficiaries of her properties in May, 2013, after a doctor had found that Ms. Marston had no mental capacity.

The assets in the will included the Palm Beach penthouse and the luxury cars, but also a New York Upper East Side condo at 888 Park Ave. and several bank accounts.

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