By Jennifer Kay, Associated Press Writer
The used car salesman seemed just like the big shot teenager Rose Marie Anglade knew in Haiti.
Paul Francois owned his dealership and property in Miami’s Little Haiti, and he parked a fleet of flashy luxury cars in front of a suburban home worth half a million dollars. “I just need someone to get married to,” he crooned to Anglade when the old acquaintances from Port-au-Prince met again in 2007.
She thought their unexpected reunion was just what she needed: Someone to take care of her, as a single mother with a son in the Army and a daughter fresh out of high school.
Instead, police say, Francois took Anglade for everything she had — while he was swindling another Haitian immigrant he had also promised to marry. He allegedly stole some $400,000 from the two New York women.
Francois, 55, of Davie, was being held Thursday on $125,000 bond at the Broward County jail on fraud and theft charges. A lawsuit Anglade filed against Francois in September 2008 also is pending.
Anglade, 50, was overjoyed to see Francois’ mug shot posted online after his arrest Wednesday. His sweet talk had left her penniless and facing eviction from the Miramar house she had bought with him, she said in a phone interview Thursday.
The dental office assistant from the Astoria section of Queens in New York went to Florida on vacation in 2007 to celebrate her daughter’s graduation. She had left Haiti for New York 30 years earlier, and she wanted to see the cultural heart for Haitians in Miami. A stroll through the neighborhood brought her to Francois’ dealership, and she recognized him instantly.
The pair talked by phone every night after Anglade returned to New York. She soon began flying back to Miami every two weeks to be with Francois.
“He told me, ‘I’m going to marry you, you won’t need to go to work,’ because he had the business,” she said. “It was, ‘Honey, honey, honey,’ every day.”
He persuaded her to sell her home and buy a house in Florida from his brother, who was behind on his mortgage, according to the arrest affidavit. Then they opened a joint account, where she deposited more than $287,000 — her savings plus the proceeds from the sale of her New York home.
When Anglade gave Francois a $17,500 check for the mortgage, he deposited it into his own account and then forged her signature on other checks as he emptied their joint account, police said. Anglade said she didn’t know Francois was stealing from her until she bounced a check in October 2007. The bank informed her that the joint account was overdrawn.
“He told me that he moved the money because he was afraid that I wouldn’t like Florida and would take the money back with me to New York,” Anglade said. “He never denied it.”
Anglade also didn’t know that while she was abandoning her life in New York to join Francois, he was wooing another woman.
“He had one week for me and then one week for her,” Anglade said. “He was engaged to both of us.”
Sheila Brissault of Elmont, N.Y., said she was introduced to Francois by his brother, a New York City cab driver, in June 2007. Brissault told authorities that over the phone, Francois claimed to be a real estate agent and persuaded the nurse from Jacmel, Haiti, to come to Florida with $50,000 for a down payment on a home.
When she visited Florida, Francois allegedly persuaded her to apply for a $50,000 line of credit on her New York home and open a joint account with him.
The 43-year-old Brissault, also a single mother with a daughter graduating high school, said she trusted Francois because he produced the right documents and told her he was looking for a wife.
“He kept talking,” she said by telephone from New York. “I thought I would never get married until my daughter graduated, and when I met this man was exactly when my daughter graduated.”
She discovered she had been swindled after Francois asked her to sell her Long Island home. She didn’t, but he had already cleaned out the joint account, according to the arrest affidavit.
Brissault and Anglade told authorities that Francois threatened them each with violence when they demanded he return their money. Anglade said Francois punched her in the face after one confrontation. Brissault said Francois threatened to kill her and her children.
“He’s nice until he gets the money, then immediately he turns into the werewolf,” said Joe Pappacoda, the attorney representing both women.
Francois’ attorney, Leonard Fenn, did not immediately return phone or e-mail messages Thursday.
Anglade and her 20-year-old daughter still live in their foreclosed Florida home, pawning belongings to pay the bills and relying on handouts for grocery money. Anglade is unemployed, and said Francois intended to leave her homeless with no way to support herself.
He sold cars, but he wouldn’t give her one to look for a job, she said.
“He said he loved me so much, he just didn’t want me to go anywhere by myself, so no car for me,” said Anglade . “He said, ‘Oh, honey, those people in Florida are no good.’ He just didn’t want me to talk to no one so I wouldn’t know what was going on with him.”
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.