ST. LOUIS – A Hillsboro man appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and admitted helping another man defraud an elderly St. Louis woman out of more than a half-million dollars.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Austin James, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft.

James told the court he helped Gino Rives, 36, exploit the 80-year-old victim, who’d hired Rives in January 2021 to repair her roof.

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Rives falsely claimed to be a contractor and the victim hired him to renovate the interior of her 1,100-square-foot home. Rives instructed the woman to write checks to himself, James, and others. The checks totaled more than $550,000, with James receiving eight checks between January 2021 and March 2023, totaling $94,606 for alleged work on the victim’s kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, basement, and foundation. James did not do any work on the victim’s home.

The victim’s bank ultimately contacted the St. Louis City Building Inspector’s Office, which determined that any work that had been done on the home totaled no more than $50,000.

James will be sentenced on August 14. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Meanwhile, Rives pleaded guilty last year and admitted defrauding two elderly victims. Earlier this year, he and his mother, Zella Rives, pleaded guilty in a separate case and admitted falsely claiming that Zella was too disabled to work. Both are scheduled to be sentenced next month.