Home Accountant Accountant pleads guilty to embezzling $800,000 from client with dementia

Accountant pleads guilty to embezzling $800,000 from client with dementia


An accountant working at a Georgia-based wealth management firm has pleaded guilty to embezzling $800,000 from an elderly client with dementia.

Heidi Royal, 52, of Dallas, Georgia, accounting and bill payment manager at Homrich Berg in Atlanta, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department announced Monday. Royal had access to the social security number, usernames and passwords of an elderly client, identified only as CK, for CK’s investment accounts and bank accounts. As part of his duties and responsibilities with the firm, Royal has provided professional bookkeeping and bill payment services to CK for over a decade. Over the years, she gained CK’s trust and developed a close personal friendship with her. Royal even told a colleague at the company that CK was like a grandmother to her. From June 2010 to March 2021, Royal embezzled approximately $800,000 of CK’s money and converted it for its own use.

As part of the scheme, Royal stole CK’s annuity payments, wrote over 200 fraudulent checks from CK’s bank accounts, forged CK’s endorsement on checks, withdrew money from bank accounts of CK and converted it to its own use, used the electronic bill payment feature associated with CK’s bank accounts to divert money, used PayPal to make electronic payments to itself from the accounts banks, impersonated CK in telephone conversations with financial institutions, and made false and misleading entries in CK’s financial records to make fraud harder to detect. Royal also used CK’s name and social security number to open a secret bank account where she hid and disguised the proceeds of the fraud.

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“Royal exploited the trust placed in her by an elderly client unable to manage her own affairs,” U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said in a statement Monday. “Our office continues to prosecute anyone who targets vulnerable members of the community, especially the elderly.”

In mid-March 2021, when Homrich Berg learned that checks drawn on CK’s bank accounts had been deposited into Royal’s personal accounts, the company immediately fired Royal and reported the matter to law enforcement. “Homrich Berg has become aware of suspicious transactions involving a former back office employee involving a client,” a spokesperson said. “Given the seriousness of the charges, HB promptly terminated the employee and has been working actively with the client and law enforcement to ensure the matter is dealt with quickly and appropriately. The result of this cooperation was a guilty plea entered by the former employee. Our findings and the findings of an external forensic accountant confirmed our belief that this misconduct was limited to one employee and one client. We have refunded the customer for the lost funds and believe.

Royal’s sentencing is scheduled for May 31.