Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Multiple Charges for Stealing from Dead Man’s Retirement Fund
BIRMINGHAM – A Texas man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to charges related to his scheme to steal more than $545,000 from a retirement account after the account owner and his designated beneficiary both died, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger C. Stanton.
DWAYNE ELLIS BAPTISTE, 43, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler to four counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Baptiste lived in Huntsville in 2011 and was acquainted with Ralph Swinehart, who along with his father, Ronald Swinehart, also lived in Huntsville. Ronald Swinehart was a retired employee of Lockheed Martin Corporation and had a retirement savings account through the company. The retirement account was held at ING Institutional Plan Services.
In September 2011, according to Baptiste’s indictment and plea agreement, Ronald Swinehart signed and executed a durable power of attorney naming his son, Ralph Swinehart, as his agent. Ronald Swinehart died on Oct. 11, 2011; his son died twelve days later, on Oct. 23, 2011.
According to the court documents, Baptiste’s fraud scheme proceeded as follows:
Baptiste filed a fraudulent power of attorney with the Madison County Probate Court in October appointing himself as Ronald Swinehart’s agent. He also fraudulently created a company, Swinehart Investment Solutions, in which he claimed Ronald and Ralph Swinehart — both deceased — were members.
Next, in December 2011, Baptiste opened two commercial accounts in the name of Swinehart Investment Solutions at BBVA Compass Bank. Baptiste also changed the beneficiary designation on Ronald Swinehart’s retirement account from Ralph Swinehart to himself, and the bank account information to one of the BBVA accounts he controlled. Baptiste then contacted ING, pretending to be Ronald Swinehart, and received instructions on how to withdraw money from Ronald Swinehart’s retirement account. Baptiste used Ronald Swinehart’s name, Social Security number, and address — committing mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Baptiste then committed wire fraud by directing four transfers, totaling $545,669, from the retirement account to his BBVA account. Subsequently, Baptiste moved the money through different accounts using withdrawals and cashier’s checks.
The maximum penalty for wire fraud and mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is two years in prison, which must be served after completion of any other sentence imposed for an associated crime.
The FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys John B. Ward and Manu Balachandran are prosecuting.