Financial advisor pleads guilty to draining account of vulnerable adult

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An Edina financial advisor pleaded guilty to identity theft in a case in which he drained $220,000 out of an 88-year-old stroke victim’s annuity account, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

John Heath, 45, pleaded guilty to the single count of identity theft in a hearing Monday. A second count of theft by swindle will be dropped at his sentencing. In addition, a second case in which he swindled thousands of dollars from an 83-year-old woman will be dropped. However, because of the second case, Heath agreed to a prison term of 41 months, which he is expected to receive at a Dec. 16 hearing.

“Everyone involved in this case did a good job, from employees at Wings Financial who saw irregularities, to the Robbinsdale police and the Minnesota Department of Commerce investigators,” Freeman said. “Sadly, Mr. Heath wanted to live a lifestyle his income could not support, so he preyed on a man who trusted him and who Heath knew was in poor mental and physical health. It is despicable and now he will pay the price.”

According to the criminal complaint and the admissions Heath made during his guilty plea, Heath had been the financial advisor for the victim, identified only as A.S., for about 20 years. The victim suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

In 2008, Heath helped A.S. set up an annuity account with Jackson National, which grew to $220,000. In January 2015, a service request form was submitted to Jackson National. It had the name of A.S., as well as his social security number, date of birth and contract number. The form asked that A.S.’s information be updated to include a home address of 7320 Gallagher Dr. and an email address of hereistrouble1@gmail.com.  Both addresses are Heath’s, the complaint states.

Heath then opened a checking account at Wings Financial, using A.S.’s social security number, birthdate and driver’s license number, all of which Heath had through his work as A.S.’s financial advisor. However, the home address, email address and home phone number were all Heath’s and A.S. had no idea the account had been set up, according to the complaint.

On Sept. 21, 2015, Heath took out $18,500 from the annuity and deposited into the phony Wings account. He made several other withdrawals, before finally taking out the final $194,172 to close out the annuity, on Oct. 29, 2015, according to the complaint.

Because Heath controlled the Wings account, he would then make ATM withdrawals or write checks to himself or to his credit card company. Until Wings became suspicious and froze the checking account on Jan. 20, 2016, Heath used the money to pay more than $20,000 on his credit card bill and withdrew more than $30,000 in cash. He also used it to purchase more than $2,500 worth of merchandise from Target.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)