Texas Couple Sentenced to Prison in $15M Employee Benefit Plan Embezzlement Scheme

December 4, 2020

A Red Oak, Texas, couple have been sentenced to a combined 18-plus years in federal prison for their roles in a $15 million retirement plan embezzlement scheme, according to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.

Vantage Benefits Administrators co-owner Wendy Richie, 59, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of theft from an employee benefit plan and one count of aggravated identity theft. She was sentenced on Dec. 4 by U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay to 132 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $12.6 million in restitution.

Her husband, Vantage co-owner Jeffrey Richie, 55, pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting theft from an employee benefit plan. He was sentenced to 87 months and ordered to pay $7.4 million in restitution.

The Richie’s company served as third party administrator for dozens of pension and retirement funds.

According to plea papers, Wendy Richie admitted to using fund beneficiaries’ personal information to submit $15.2 million in fraudulent distribution requests to Matrix Trust, the funds’ custodian. Instead of depositing the money into beneficiaries’ accounts, however, she transferred it into Vantage’s operating account, then into personal bank accounts.

Even after a Vantage employee confronted Jeffrey Richie about his wife’s conduct, Wendy Richie continued to embezzle money from the funds. At least $6.2 million of the $15.2 million she embezzled was taken with his knowledge, Jeffrey Richie admitted.

In total, the pair admitted to submitting more than 90 unauthorized distribution requests from 13 pension plans and seven retirement plans from 2014 and 2017.

The Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Texas State Auditor’s Office conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nick Bunch and Christopher Stokes prosecuted the case.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas

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