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Bank VP admits stealing from trust fund, annuity

A former vice president of Baltimore-based Harbor Financial Services Inc. admitted Wednesday that he stole more than $800,000 from the trust fund of a child with cerebral palsy and the annuity of an 85-year-old dementia sufferer.

Ralph Edward Thomas Jr., who was also employed by Wells Fargo Advisors LLC, pleaded guilty to mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“Ralph Edward Thomas Jr. held himself out as a reliable financial advisor, but he was really just a disgraceful thief,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in an email. “He betrayed people who trusted him and stole from an elderly person and a handicapped child.”

Thomas’ lawyer, William R. Buie III, said he was sympathetic to the victims and that his client was working with the federal government to pay back all the money he stole.

“Mr. Thomas has taken full responsibility for his actions and has already started to make some restitution …,” Buie said. “That’s pretty much all he can do, under the circumstances.”

According to Thomas’ plea agreement, he stole the majority of the money — $756,963.98 — from the mother of the child with cerebral palsy. The woman, identified only as “KL,” managed a trust fund established for her daughter, who suffered birth injuries that led to a $3 million medical malpractice settlement.

KL had used the settlement to buy a Berkshire Hathaway annuity that paid an average of $6,287.53 a month. Thomas convinced her to open a trust account with Harbor Financial when the two met in December 2001 and the Berkshire payments started flowing directly into that account via wire transfer.

According to the plea agreement, Thomas proceeded to scam her into signing blank withdrawal slips that he used to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from the account into cashier’s checks over the course of eight years. He deposited the checks into his personal bank accounts, using the money to buy a house in Reisterstown and several luxury cars, including a BMW and a Mercedes Benz.

Meanwhile, only 21.7 percent of the annuity was finding its way to KL’s checking account. She should have had $74,711 a year available for her daughter’s care. Instead, she had an average of $16,247.

The plea agreement also states that Thomas stole $12,500 from KL’s personal account at Harbor Bank and forged KL’s signature in order to take out three mortgages against her home, causing her $26,886.36 in expenses and losses.

Thomas wasn’t done.

The agreement states that, while working as a financial advisor for Wells Fargo in 2008, Thomas twice tried to convince another victim identified as “LM” to cash out more than $100,000 from an annuity account that she shared with her sister, who suffers from dementia, and send the check to him.

LM refused, not knowing that Thomas had already fraudulently withdrawn $75,000 from the account and used more than half of it to pay off his credit cards.

“He made a huge mistake,” said Buie, who has his own law firm in Baltimore. “There was a series of events where he breached his fiduciary duty.”

Thomas’ plea agreement stipulates that he pay $838,350.34 in restitution to his two victims and forfeit assets he gained from the scheme, including the house in Reisterstown, the 2002 BMW X5 and the 2006 Mercedes Benz CLS.

He agreed to pay for a 2002 Volkswagen Beetle and a 2002 Acura RSX in lieu of forfeiture.

Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 3.


2 comments

  1. If we treated WHITE collar slime the way we treat a poor slob who steals a tv from a store maybe justice would be more balanced. This bytch should get the full 20 years and NOT in a federal cushy prison. But, with the hommies from around the way!!!!

  2. Wow! I wonder how he justified this to himself. That is sociopathic behavior of the non-violent kind.