A Maryland-based financial advisor pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding clients of over $800,000, including the removal of more than $750,000 from an annuity trust fund account set up to support a child suffering cerebral palsy.
Ralph Edward Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty on Wednesday to mail fraud in connection with defrauding his clients of $838,350, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland. Thomas was indicted on mail fraud by a federal grand jury on Aug. 19.
Thomas, 52, of Baltimore, admitted that he regularly siphoned money out of a trust that was set up support a child suffering from cerebral palsy. The trust was funded through a $3 million medical malpractice settlementm which was used to buy an annuity that was to pay the child a minimum of $3,990 a month. Thomas, a vice president of Harbor Financial Services, a subsidiary of Harbor Bank, met the child's mother in December 2001 and established complete control over the child's trust account, which he moved to the Harbor Bank.
Thomas admitted that while the annuity payments averaged $6,287 a month, between December 2001 to June 2010, he only gave the mother $1,000 to $1,500 a month. He withdrew the remaining monthly balance by obtaining the mother's signature on blank withdrawal slips, and then deposited the funds into his own personal bank account.
Thomas withdrew $756,064 from the trust account, which he used for his own personal benefit, including spending of $100,000 to buy a home in Reisterstown, Md., in July 2009. He also obtained three mortgages totaling $205,000 on the mother's home in her name without her permission, resulting in her incurring $26,886 in closing costs and losses. Thomas also stole $12,500 from the mother's personal account held at Harbor Bank.
Thomas also admitted that while employed as a financial advisor by Wells Fargo Advisors LLC between February 2004 and July 2010 he stole $75,000 from the account of an unidentified elderly Wells Fargo customer, according to prosecutors. Thomas spent $42,000 of the money to pay personal credit card accounts and for other personal expenses.
As part of the plea bargain, Thomas agreed to pay $838,350 in restitution, and to forfeit property in order to pay the amount, including funds in his investment accounts, his home in Reisterstown and luxury automobiles.
Thomas faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for mail fraud. U.S District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for Feb. 3.