Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced that former Twin Cities financial adviser Susan Elizabeth Walker, 51, of Plymouth, has been sentenced to more than 7 years (88 months) in federal prison for stealing more than $1.1 million from at least 24 clients.
“Walker stole her clients’ life savings by abusing her position of trust,” said Rothman. “Many of Walker’s victims were seniors who counted on her to manage their accounts responsibly, but instead she diverted their hard-earned savings to finance her own lavish lifestyle. The Commerce Department, and in this case the Commerce Fraud Bureau, is working closely with prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies to stop financial crimes.”
Walker was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis. She had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion.
The case is the result of an investigation by the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau, the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS and the FBI, with significant assistance from Ameriprise Financial, Inc., and the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General.
“Susan Walker preyed upon people who trusted her, stealing repeatedly from vulnerable victims over many years,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Rank. “She targeted those with modest retirement savings and used their money to satisfy her own greed. Despite her attempts to cover her crimes, they were uncovered by the excellent work of the IRS, FBI and the Fraud Bureau of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Although Walker’s victims will likely never be made financially whole, the sentence handed down today by the Court is both appropriate and fair, and gives some solace to the people she betrayed.”
From October 2008 until March 2013, Walker provided financial planning services to clients through her affiliation with Ameriprise Financial, Inc. She was a securities agent registered with the Minnesota Commerce Department and a financial adviser registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Walker stole from her clients by misusing her access to their retirement accounts, drawing checks on their accounts and depositing the funds into accounts that she controlled.
She also opened investment brokerage accounts in her own name and in the names of several clients without their knowledge or authorization. Walker used these accounts to conceal funds stolen from other clients and then spend the money for her own personal use.
She used funds stolen as part of the fraud scheme to pay for, among other things, private school tuition and expensive vacation travel.
In addition to stealing from her clients, Walker failed to report any of the funds obtained through fraud on her tax returns. The total tax loss on her unreported income is approximately $325,000.
“People rely on the advice and trust the services of their financial advisor to make life decisions. They expect them to be honest and trustworthy,” said Shea Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, St. Paul Field Office. “Ms. Walker violated this expectation, and stole from her clients for her own personal gain. Let this sentence serve as a deterrent to those who may contemplate similar fraudulent actions.”