When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
SEATTLE, Jan. 18 -- The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington issued the following news release:
An Enumclaw financial advisor whose crimes were uncovered when he tried to collect a half million dollar death benefit on a client who was still living, was sentenced today to seven years in prison, three years of supervised release, and restitution in the amount of $5,705,023.24, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. AARON TRAVIS BEAIRD, 39, was arrested in July 2012, after he faked his suicide, traveled to Scotland for a week, and then returned to Sea-Tac airport where he was taken into federal custody for investigation of mail fraud and wire fraud. BEAIRD pleaded guilty in August 2012. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, "By stealing the money you took from the victims, you stole their hopes and dreams, but most importantly, you stole their trust."
"These crimes were a betrayal of trust," said U.S. Attorney Durkan. "Mr. Beaird's friends, relatives and members of his church thought he was safeguarding their families' future. Instead, he used their money to live well, turning their dreams into nightmares."
According to records filed in the case, for about ten years BEAIRD held himself out as a financial advisor to friends and family and members of his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. BEAIRD was trusted as a leader of the church. But instead of investing conservatively in annuities and life insurance products, BEAIRD engaged in a scheme to defraud investors by falsely representing those annuity products and life insurance policies and in some cases appropriating annuity payments and policy premiums directly to his personal use. BEAIRD created false account statements that he provided to his clients making them believe their funds were safely invested and would be available when they needed them.
In the fall of 2011, BEAIRD took $500,000 from a client's investment account without authorization, and used some of it to purchase a life insurance policy on the client. In June 2012 BEAIRD filed to receive a death benefit on the policy even though the insured was still living. The insurance company confronted BEAIRD and he disappeared from Enumclaw. Shortly after his disappearance, his car was found near Deception Pass on Whidbey Island with a suicide note inside. He had also mailed letters to several clients, confessing his fraud and advising them of his intent to take his own life. Further investigation revealed BEAIRD had taken a taxi to Sea-Tac and flown to Scotland. He returned a week later and was arrested. The loss amount of his scheme is estimated at $5.7 million.
Victim statements in the case describe how BEAIRD's theft has robbed people of not only their life's savings, but their trust in others. Some write about having to live in a travel trailer because they have no funds to finish building their home or have no money for their retirement or children's education. "The sense of betrayal and distrust fostered by Mr. Beaird's actions cannot be ignored. This pervasive reality is matched by the deep financial losses incurred with little regard for what those losses meant to the victims. In most instances, each victim's financial well-being has been irreparably damaged. Life savings were wiped out. For some, the hope of a secure retirement has been replaced with despair and uncertainty, with little time to replace stolen funds. Taken together, the emotional and financial damages inflicted by Mr. Beaird through his fraudulent scheme are overwhelming,' prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the City of Enumclaw Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle.
TNS MGD130119-4172474 StaffFurigay