Baltimore, Maryland – A federal criminal complaint has been filed charging Eddy Blizzard, age 42, of Perry Hall, Maryland, with a federal wire fraud charge and with aggravated identity theft, in connection with a fraud scheme in which he embezzled more than $1 million from a client’s retirement account. The criminal complaint was filed on April 14, 2021 and unsealed upon Blizzard’s initial appearance today.
The criminal complaint was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Mark P. Higgins of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.
“This defendant is charged with perpetrating a heartless scheme that preyed on a vulnerable elderly victim, allegedly stealing more than a million dollars,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “As a result of the fraud the victim’s house went into foreclosure and he owed the IRS at least $63,000. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who perpetrate these despicable schemes targeting elderly victims. I encourage anyone who believes they may be a victim of financial fraud to contact the Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).”
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Blizzard held several licenses that allowed him to operate as a registered broker and a registered investment adviser per the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). From 2003 to 2014, Blizzard was employed by a bank securities company (Bank 1) and from 2014 to 2017 he was employed by a bank investment services company (Bank 2), both in Maryland.
As detailed in the affidavit, victim R.M. was a resident of Maryland and was 75 years old in January 2020. On December 12, 2019, R.M. was interviewed as part of this investigation. R.M stated to investigators that beginning in 1963, R.M. went to work for a Baltimore based commercial air-conditioning company, where he enjoyed a successful career installing commercial grade air conditioning units around the country. R.M. told investigators he routinely worked approximately 15 to 30 hours of overtime per week during his career to make extra money. In 2003, after approximately 40 years of service with the air conditioning company, R.M. took a buyout and retired. Six months later, R.M. decided to invest his retirement funds in order to provide an inheritance for his grandchildren. R.M. sought investment advice from Bank 1, where he had his depository accounts.
Blizzard began working at Bank 1 shortly after R.M. began investing there and became R.M.’s financial adviser. R.M. allegedly told investigators that in about 2005, Blizzard “went on his own” meaning that Blizzard began working as an independent financial advisor and asked R.M. if R.M. wanted to leave Bank 1 and use Blizzard as a full-time financial advisor. Blizzard allegedly told R.M. that it would be a while before he had his own office, but he would continue to work out of the Bank 1 branch in Catonsville, Maryland. A review of publicly available FINRA records shows that Blizzard never went to work as an independent financial advisor. As detailed in the affidavit, approximately once a month, R.M. would drive from his new home in Chester, Maryland on the Eastern Shore to meet with Blizzard at Bank 1 in Catonsville, approximately one hour away; however, R.M. and Blizzard would meet in Blizzard’s car, not the office. These meetings lasted 30-45 minutes and R.M. was never told why they were meeting in Blizzard’s car.
In approximately 2010, the affidavit alleges that, at Blizzard’s request, R.M. gave Blizzard 15-20 signed blank checks, which Blizzard used. According to the affidavit, R.M. did not know what the checks were for, but recognized Blizzard’s handwriting when he received the cancelled checks in the mail. During the years of investment with Blizzard, R.M. stated that he believed his retirement funds were protected, meaning they would not lose value – a fact that was allegedly told to R.M. numerous times by Blizzard and Blizzard’s wife. R.M. also believed that his mortgage was being paid by Blizzard.
The affidavit alleges that on approximately 12 different instances, R.M. went to his local bank to withdraw cash and was told there was not enough money in the account. R.M. would then call Blizzard to let him know about the deficiency. Blizzard allegedly would then tell R.M. to wait a day or two and there would be funds in the account to withdraw.
In August 2019, R.M. was preparing to go on a family vacation and attempted to withdraw $1,000 to $1,500 in cash from the local Bank 1 branch and was told there were not sufficient funds in the account. R.M. attempted to contact Blizzard on his cell phone for a week with no response. R.M. then went to Blizzard’s Perry Hall, Maryland residence to talk to Blizzard in person, knocking on the front and back doors of Blizzard’s residence. No one came to the door, but according to the affidavit R.M. received a voicemail from Blizzard, while he was still at Blizzard’s home. In the voicemail, Blizzard allegedly stated that the neighbors had called him and were complaining about the banging on the door. As detailed in the affidavit, Blizzard further explained that all of R.M.’s money was gone.
According to the affidavit, a review of R.M.’s depository and investment accounts showed that between January 2013 and August 2019 there were a total of 242 distributions totaling approximately $1.4 million from R.M.’s retirement accounts. Of those, 129 distributions totaling $1.2 million were specifically requested from R.M.’s retirement accounts instead of being regular systematic annuity payments. After taxes and fees were deducted from those requested payments, approximately $1 million was deposited into R.M.’s Bank 1 account. This review allegedly also revealed that from April 2016 to April 2019 Blizzard deposited approximately 112 checks drawn on R.M.’s account into various bank accounts at Bank 1 and elsewhere that were held by Blizzard jointly with his wife or individually. These checks totaled approximately $848,000 and were written to Blizzard or Blizzard’s wife. A review of these checks showed that almost all had comments written on the memo section indicating various purposes such as payment of property taxes, construction, boat payments, and down payments for a new house.
In addition, the affidavit alleges that R.M. received a letter from the IRS, which he turned over to Blizzard as Blizzard had instructed. R.M.’s relatives later determined that R.M. owed approximately $63,000 in federal income tax due to disbursements from R.M.’s retirement accounts that were allegedly stolen by Blizzard. In the fall of 2019, R.M.’s home was put into the foreclosure process because of lack of payment which R.M. allegedly thought was being handled by Blizzard. R.M. died on March 20, 2020.
If convicted, Blizzard faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud and a mandatory sentence of two years, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. At today’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah L. Boardman ordered that Blizzard be released pending trial.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI and the FHFA OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron S. J. Zelinsky, who is prosecuting this case.
The Department of Justice has an interactive tool for elders who have been financially exploited to help determine to which agency they should report their incident, and also a senior scam alert website. Victims are encouraged to file a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at this website or by calling 1-800-225-5324. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.
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