Adviser Found Guilty for Stealing Nearly $1 Million
Former Ameriprise Financial Inc. adviser Susan Walker recently pleaded guilty to defrauding 24 clients of $980,000. Walker used the money to pay for personal expenses, including vacations and private school tuition.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota reported that the alleged incidents occurred between 2008 and 2013.
According to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, Walker opened investment accounts in her own name and in the names of several clients without their permission. She then withdrew money from clients’ accounts, deposited it into the accounts she controlled, and then withdrew the money for personal use.
An Ameriprise spokesman reported that the firm has reimbursed clients for their losses.
Walker and her mother, Barbara J. Stark, worked together at the Ameriprise’s branch office in Wayzata, Minn., from October 2008 until March 2013. They were both terminated from the firm, according to an order from the Office of Administrative Hearings for the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Although Stark was named in that order, she was not charged in the U.S. attorney’s case. However, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA) barred both Walker and Stark from the brokerage industry for failing to provide documents in connection with allegations of misappropriating client funds.
According to the order from the Department of Commerce, Walker made unsuitable investment recommendations. Prior to her employment at Ameriprise, she advised an 89-year-old client to invest over $75,000 into annuities. She later withdrew funds from the client’s accounts for personal use, including paying for her certification with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.
After discovering Walker had been barred by FINRA, the CFP Board suspended, and then permanently revoked her certification.
The fraud was discovered while the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office was contacting various customers regarding their participation in an unrelated settlement over annuity sales. The attorney general’s office uncovered withdrawals from several senior citizens’ annuities, and it was noted that the withdrawals were made without their owners’ knowledge.
Source: Investment News