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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Alabama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 27, 2017

Texas Man Sentenced to Six Years in Prison on Multiple Charges for Stealing from Dead Man’s Retirement Fund

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today sentenced a Texas man to six years and three months in prison for a scheme to steal more than $650,000 from a retirement account after the account owner and his designated beneficiary both died, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey.

U.S. District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced DWAYNE ELLIS BAPTISTE, 44, on four counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Baptiste pled guilty to the charges in February. He is in the custody of U.S. Marshals.

“Baptiste went to great lengths to exploit the deaths of two people so he could steal a man’s life-long savings,” Posey said. “In calculated steps, he formed a company, faked a power of attorney, created bank accounts and used stolen identifying information and a forged signature to carry out his scheme.”

“The actions taken by Baptiste to steal from the dead are unconscionable acts of greed,” Archey said. “I applaud the sentence handed down today and the work of my agents to bring Baptiste to the bar of justice.”

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 plea and the government’s sentencing memorandum, 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 on Oct. 23, 2011.

The court documents show Baptiste carried out a scheme to divert the $678,309 in Ronald Swinehart’s retirement account to an account he controlled. He conducted that scheme as follows:

Baptiste filed a fraudulent power of attorney with the Madison County Probate Court in October 2011 appointing himself as Ronald Swinehart’s agent. He also created a company, Swinehart Investment Solutions, in which he fraudulently claimed Ronald and Ralph Swinehart — both deceased — were members.

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 in that process, committing mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Baptiste then committed wire fraud by directing four transfers, totaling $678,309, from the retirement account to his BBVA account. After withholding for federal taxes, Baptiste received $545,670 for himself. He took repeated steps to conceal his fraud, using withdrawals and cashier’s checks to move the money through different accounts he controlled.

The FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys John B. Ward and Manu Balachandran prosecuted.

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Updated July 27, 2017