Accountant pleads guilty to embezzling $800,000 from elderly client | USAO-NDGA

ATLANTA — Heidi Royal, who worked as an accountant at an Atlanta-based wealth management firm, pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from a scheme to defraud one of the firm’s clients.

“Royal exploited the trust placed in her by an elderly client unable to manage her own affairs,” U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said. “Our office continues to prosecute anyone who targets vulnerable members of the community, especially the elderly.”

“It is very heartbreaking that Royal manipulated a vulnerable victim and stole so much of her hard-earned life savings after pretending to be a close friend who was supposed to have her best interests in mind,” Special Agent Philip Wislar said. acting in charge of the FBI. Atlanta. “The FBI will always make protecting the elderly from exploitation a priority.”

According to US Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented to the court: Heidi Royal’s employer was registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment adviser. The company provided investment advice and financial services to CK, an elderly widow with dementia.

As the company’s accounting manager and bill-paying supervisor, Royal had access to CK’s social security number and usernames and passwords for CK’s investment accounts and bank accounts. As part of his duties and responsibilities with the firm, Royal has provided professional bookkeeping and bill payment services to CK for over 10 years. During this time, Royal gained CK’s trust and developed a close personal friendship with her. Royal even told a colleague at the company that CK was like a grandmother to her.

As a person associated with an investment adviser, Royal had a fiduciary duty to each of the firm’s clients, including CK, and Royal was required to act at all times in the best interests of CK. Royal was not allowed to pay her own debts and expenses with CK’s money.

From approximately June 1, 2010 to March 17, 2021, however, Royal embezzled approximately $800,000 of CK’s money and converted it for its own use.

As part of this scheme, Royal stole CK’s annuity payments, wrote over 200 fraudulent checks on CK’s bank accounts, forged CK’s check endorsements, withdrew money from bank accounts of CK and converted it to her own use, fraudulently used the electronic bill payment feature associated with CK’s bank accounts to divert money to herself, used PayPal to make electronic payments to herself from CK’s bank accounts, impersonated CK in telephone conversations with financial institutions; and made false and misleading entries in CK’s financial records to make fraud harder to detect.

Additionally, Royal fraudulently used CK’s name and social security number to open a secret bank account in an attempt to conceal and disguise the proceeds of the fraud.

In mid-March 2021, when the company learned that checks drawn on CK’s bank accounts had been deposited into Royal’s personal accounts, the company immediately fired Royal and reported the matter to law enforcement.

Heidi Royal, 52, of Dallas, Georgia, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is scheduled for May 31, 2022 at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell Phillips and Elizabeth McBath are prosecuting the case.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is part of the Department of Justice’s Transnational Elder Strike Force. The Strike Force focuses on the investigation and prosecution of defendants associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect older Americans. These include romance scams, phone scams, direct mail fraud schemes and tech support fraud schemes. For more information on these scams, see https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/senior-scam-alert.

For more information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs at [email protected] or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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