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Financial Advisor Charged With Theft

By Jana Peterson, The Pine Journal, Cloquet, Minn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 08--A Cloquet man is being charged with theft after being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Steven William Schmidt, 55, of Cloquet was charged in November in Carlton County Court with theft by swindle and theft by false representation, both felony charges.

Schmidt has conducted business under multiple names, including Schmidt and Associates, Schmidt Consulting LLC, Schmidt Wealth Management and Safe Money Solutions, LLC, currently located on the 600 block of North Road in Cloquet. According to the Better Business Bureau website, Safe Money Solutions offers financial services for post-retirement, estate and annuities.

According to the criminal complaint:

Department of Commerce Detective Brandon Johnson began investigating Schmidt, a licensed insurance provider in Minnesota, in October 2012, following a complaint from a client of Schmidt's who said he had advised her to withdraw money from her annuities between 2004 and 2008, claiming he would use the proceeds for other retirement investments.

The complaint notes that on or about Nov. 12, 2007, three "request for annuity" policy fund forms were sent to Allianz Life Insurance Company. The forms were signed by Schmidt's client, but were completed in different handwriting using a different pen. The fax imprint forms read SW Schmidt and Associates. The client received $42,403 in proceeds from those three requests. However, on or about Nov. 19, 2007, a check in the amount of $39,258 was made out to Schmidt Consulting from the client's account, a check she said she thought Schmidt completed but she signed.

According to the complaint, when Detective Johnson examined Schmidt's bank records, he found no record the $39,258 was invested for the client. Examination of the bank records instead provides probable cause for the state and the client to believe that the money was used entirely for the enrichment of Schmidt, his family and associates. The detective also found two instances in which money -- $30,000 on Nov. 28, 2007, and $11,150 on Dec. 7, 2007 -- was transferred from Schmidt's business account to his personal account.

Assistant Carlton County Attorney Jeffrey Boucher explained that although the state did the investigation, the county attorney's office is prosecuting the alleged crime.

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A contested omnibus in the case is set for March 13.

Schmidt's attorney, Robert Mathias of Duluth, said he will certainly challenge probable cause at the omnibus hearing.

"We believe when we have a chance, we will be able to prove this had nothing to do with criminality," Mathias said in a phone interview Tuesday, asserting it was a business transaction and nothing more. "This is one incident in the history of this man doing business."

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