Gettysburg Attorney Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for Defrauding Clients of Over $6 Million
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that today in Harrisburg United States District Court Judge John E. Jones III sentenced Wendy Weikal-Beauchat, 46, to 15 years’ imprisonment plus restitution and forfeiture totaling over $12 million for wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the misuse of her clients’ funds.
In sentencing Weikal-Beauchat, Judge Jones stated that she had stolen from clients who were members of the depression and WWII generation and had undermined public trust in lawyers. He dismissed her statement that she had “messed up” by saying that her conduct was essentially stealing from her clients and that her apology, presented in court for the first time today, was “hollow.”
Judge Jones ordered Weikal-Beauchat to be taken into custody by U.S. Marshals to begin serving her sentence immediately after the hearing. The judge found that a sentence above the guideline range was necessary as a just punishment and to deter violations of the public trust. He ordered $6,365,913 in restitution and $6,341,451 in forfeiture. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the restitution amount in this case is higher because it includes expenses incurred by the victims, such as legal fees, above and beyond the proceeds of the crime.
Approximately 30 of Weikal-Beauchat’s former clients and their family members attended the sentencing. Sixteen of them read statements to the court. Most emphasized the mental as well as financial harm inflicted on them and their families by Weikal-Beauchat’s fraud.
Weikal-Beauchat, who has since been disbarred, was an attorney with the Gettysburg firm of Beauchat and Beauchat, concentrating on estate, trust, and long-term care planning. According to the evidence presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J. Terz, beginning in 2007, Weikal-Beauchat diverted approximately $6 million from a trust account she maintained for her clients at M&T Bank. Weikal-Beauchat used the crime proceeds to operate her law firm, and for vacations and other personal expenses. She falsely represented she could invest in certificates of deposit with high interest rates as a result of her “special relationship” with M&T Bank. She generated bogus bank CDs and distributed them to her clients to further mislead them.
When several clients and M&T Bank questioned Weikal-Beauchat’s handling of the funds and/or initiated complaints against her, she made false statements, submitted false documents and said that she had hired an accountant to help her respond to the questions about the law firm’s activities. In reality there was no accountant.
The details of the fraud scheme are presented in the government’s sentencing memorandum filed on Nov. 10, 2014, and in Judge Jones’ memorandum and order filed on Dec. 8, 2014.
The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and the FBI’s Harrisburg office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J. Terz and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Sinnett of the Adams County District Attorney’s Office, assisted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Unit.
Weikal-Beauchat was charged in a criminal information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Nov. 4, 2013. She pleaded guilty on November 15.