Former Executive at First Command Financial Services Pleads Guilty
FORT WORTH, TX—A former executive at First Command Financial Services, an investment advisor and financial planning firm located in Fort Worth, Texas, pleaded guilty this morning before U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor to a felony offense stemming from a fraud scheme she ran while employed there, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Redonda Russell, 66, of Fort Worth, pleaded guilty to a felony Information charging one count of wire fraud. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and restitution. She will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for December 8, 2014.
Russell worked for First Command for 22 years, before leaving the company in the spring of 2013. She is a registered Investment Advisory Representative and Broker-Dealer Agent. She is able to buy and sell securities, and she is authorized to give investment advice to clients. She is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), a designation she earned by completing a comprehensive course of financial education, examinations, and practical experience. Through First Command’s client database, Russell had access to clients’ personal identifying information (PII), investment/insurance account numbers, and balances for the account holder and beneficiaries.
According to plea documents filed in the case, beginning on approximately April 3, 2012, and continuing through April 18, 2013, Russell obtained PII for at least 18 First Command clients, eight of whom were deceased. Russell admitted using that information to forge, or otherwise present claims as the account holder, beneficiary, or legal representative of the account holder/beneficiary, to First Command’s affiliated investment and insurance partners to liquidate the targeted accounts.
Russell admitted that part of her scheme was to steal funds from inactive clients’ accounts, thus making the fraud harder to detect. She also targeted accounts that were maintained by First Command’s business partners that were part of an industry-standard, paperless signature program that eliminated the need for the verifying entity to send additional substantiating paperwork to the receiver. After Russell altered ownership/control of the targeted customers’ accounts, Russell sent a policy cancellation/disbursement form and W-9 tax withholding form and instructed the affiliated partner to either liquidate or take a loan against the targeted accounts.
Funds were subsequently wired into one of Russell’s 12 bank accounts or, if checks were mailed, Russell would endorse and deposit them. Checks were endorsed by Russell, Russell signing as her husband, Russell signing as her daughter-in-law, or an amalgam of signatures she used to perpetuate the scheme usually having the surname “Russell.”
Russell’s scheme resulted in the liquidation of more than $316,000 from First Command’s clients’ accounts.
The FBI investigated the case; Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Larson is in charge of the prosecution.