FORMER KIRKLAND BROKER SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR MAIL FRAUD FOR STEALING $12.1 MILLION FROM INVESTORS
Homes, Cars, Cash, Jet Skis and Ski-Doos Will be Auctioned to Benefit Victims
RHONDA L. BREARD, 49, a former Kirkland, Washington investment advisor, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 80 months in prison and three years of supervised release for Mail Fraud. A hearing will be held in about 60 days to determine the restitution she owes in connection with her scheme to defraud dozens of clients out of millions of dollars. BREARD pleaded guilty in April 2010. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman told her, “.... you found yourself living a very lonely existence, living a lie... it was a fraudulent existence.”
According to records in the case, BREARD, defrauded 42 individuals out of at least $12.1 million. She told the investors the money would be placed in a variety of financial and insurance products. Instead, BREARD used the money for her own expenses, and mailed phoney statements to these customers. Under the terms of her plea agreement, a number of items will be forfeited to the government as proceeds of the crime. The list includes homes on Lake Washington, in Redmond and in Duvall, Washington. A 2009 Cadillac Escalade, a 2009 Mercedes Benz SL 550, five snowmobiles, eight ski-doos, various trailers, trucks, cars and mobile homes are all listed for forfeiture. Also on the list is $100,000 cash seized from a safe deposit box and $150,000 seized from another bank account. The items will be sold at auction September 11, 2010, in an effort to get restitution for the victims. Many of the assets are significantly mortgaged.
The charges against BREARD detail how victims in this case trusted BREARD with their money after hearing her speak in investment classes at locations such as community colleges. Some had invested with BREARD for more than twenty years. The fraud came to light in early February 2010, when an auditor with ING Financial Partners made an unannounced visit to BREARD’s Kirkland office. BREARD had worked as an independent contractor for ING Financial Partners since 2004. The auditor found a locked file cabinet in BREARD’s office. He was told that it contained only BREARD’s personal tax information. In fact, when the file was unlocked at his request, he found a number of client files that revealed BREARD had not made investments with client money, but had in fact used it for her own benefit.
In asking for a prison sentence of 97 months, prosecutors said the focus should be on BREARD’s victims. “ They are hard working individuals who were not trying to get rich quick or put their money into some risky, speculative investment. Instead, they just wanted their hard earned money placed into safe investments for their retirements. The many victims trusted and believed Ms. Breard when she promised them that she would invest their money in a safe and conservative manner. She abused that trust over and over again and, as a result of that process, she has turned many of her trusting clients into justifiably angry and cynical victims. Moreover, there can be no explanation, other than greed, for the defendant’s criminal conduct,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
Speaking at the sentencing, BREARD’s victims told the judge they wanted the maximum sentence, describing how she had smiled at them and assured them their hard earned money was safe for their retirement or their children’s education. They discovered that BREARD had stolen their money and used it for her own luxurious lifestyle. One victim said BREARD’s contrition “was all another act, more drama, to get what she wants at the expense of others.”
BREARD told the judge “I hurt a lot of people.. Not just these people (in the courtroom) but my family, my friends... I took my God-given talents and used them in a way of corruption.”
The case was investigated by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) and the FBI.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carl Blackstone and Matthew Diggs.
For additional information regarding the federal court process, please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.