Valparaiso woman ordered to pay $1.1 million for bilking client
By Teresa Auch-Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2013 2:46PM
Updated: June 18, 2013 8:20AM
A former Schererville financial adviser must pay back $1.1 million and spend a year in home detention as punishment for stealing money from her client’s life savings.
Jennifer Guelinas, 45, of Valpraiso, apologized to her victim, a 79-year-old man, during the sentencing hearing Thursday morning at U.S. District Court in Hammond, telling him she really did enjoy the time she spent with him.
“I never meant to hurt (him),” she said, struggling with tears as she spoke. “I understand what I did was wrong; I don’t want to be a bad person.”
Guelinas, who worked for Ameriprise Financial Services, pleaded guilty a year ago to wire fraud, admitting that from 2006 to 2010 she repeatedly forged her client’s signature to move more than $800,000 from his account to one of her business acounts and accounts for a restaurant she had invested in and a home she was trying to develop on land she owned.
Guelinas’ attorney, Paul Schlesinger, argued in a filing that Guelinas had bought the residential properties on behalf of her clients, including her victim, as an investment. The real estate market then tanked, however, and Guelinas used E.G.’s money to pay her own expenses.
Despite Guelinas’ apology, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster said during the hearing that she considered the defendant to be delusional about her crime and manipulative. Despite that, Koster said she supported a period of home confinement for one year because Guelinas, who has lost her brokerage license, can’t commit the crime again.
The daughter of the victim, who has since been reimbursed by Ameriprise, read a letter he wrote, describing how during the time Guelinas was stealing from him, his wife was in a nursing home. Guelinas’ theft made it hard for him to pay for her care.
She also lied to him when he noticed he was losing money, telling him that it was because of market fluctuations, and scheduled their meetings for times when his children couldn’t be there to look out for his interests, the letter said.
Moody castigated Guelinas for her behavior, calling her crime shameful.
“Shame on you,” he said. “I never understood people like you.”
The judge questioned whether she had paid any of the money back, and although Schlesinger said she had tried, he admitted she not done so.
Moody questioned whether imprisoning her would do anything more than cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and granted Guelinas’ request for probation. Along with the one year of home detention, Guelinas must also serve another three years of probation and $1.1 million back to Ameriprise.