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Albanian woman allegedly bilks man out of more than $100,000

Anisa Llega.Arlington Police

ARLINGTON — "I thought I was saving her life," said Donald Hodgins, an 84-year-old widower and real-estate mogul. "I was a sucker."

Hodgins was referring to Anisa Llega, a 24-year-old Albanian immigrant who Middlesex County prosecutors say fleeced him of tens of thousands of dollars.

Llega allegedly told Hodgins that she was going to spend $30,000 of his money on emergency surgery for a brain tumor, which prosecutors say turned out to be a hoax. Hodgins said he believed he gave more than $60,000 to Llega; Arlington police estimated the amount at more than $100,000.

But Llega alleges that Hodgins voluntarily gave her the money, out of kindness, but also because he was sexually attracted to her.

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On Thursday, prosecutors persuaded a Cambridge District Court judge to hold Llega, who is charged with larceny, on $100,000 cash bail.

After the arraignment, Hodgins said in his Arlington home that although he wants his money back, he is sad Llega is now incarcerated.

"I just want to know why she did it," Hodgins said. He admitted that he once felt romantic feelings for Llega, but said he knew he was "too old" for her and that Llega was engaged.

Hodgins said he was convinced that Llega was terminally ill when he gave her the largest payment, a $30,000 check in November.

"I was too trusting," he said.

The two met almost three years ago at Classic Cafe, a small diner on Massachusetts Avenue where Llega was working as a waitress and host, said Fatos Qari, a current manager at the restaurant.

"Donnie," as people call Hodgins, is a regular at the restaurant and Qari said the duo struck up an informal friendship.

"He was very nice. A lot of people like him and a lot of customers liked her," Qari said.

Eight months ago, Llega left her job to work for Hodgins. She would clean his house, provide computer assistance, and set up an online presence for his real estate company for a salary of $50,000 and an at-home laptop, Hodgins said.

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Soon, however, Llega began requesting more money to handle family problems, student loans, auto bills, and eventually, brain cancer, Hodgins said.

Prosecutors said Llega told Hodgins that she was being treated at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, but had asked the hospital for anonymity if anyone called.

Steven Goldwyn, Llega's court-appointed attorney, said she never connived to deceive Hodgins.

Hodgins would say " 'Let me help you with your loans,' " Goldwyn told the court.

He said Hodgins, angry that Llega did not return his romantic affections, made up the story that she was fleecing him to get back at her.

"He found out she was going with her boyfriend to Florida and he got livid," Goldwyn said of Hodgins.

In arguing for a higher bail, Assistant District Attorney Raquel Frisardi asked Judge Roanne Sragow to consider what she called Llega's flippant behavior while she was being booked.

Frisardi said Llega was consistently "laughing and giggling" while police were questioning her.

Llega "does not have any consideration for the seriousness of the offenses," Frisardi said.

In setting the bail at $100,000, the judge also forbade Llega from working with senior citizens. Authorities have confiscated her passport, though Llega has a green card, and Goldwyn said all her close family is in Massachusetts and that she is not a threat to leave the country.

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Llega's fiance, her father, and a former employer were present for her arraignment. Each declined comment following the proceedings.


Globe correspondent Lauren Fox contributed to this report. Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.