A Red Oak couple pleaded guilty Tuesday to their roles in a $15 million retirement plan embezzlement scheme, said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
The couple were co-owners of Vantage Benefits Administrators where they managed retirement plans.
Wendy Richie, 59, pleaded guilty Tuesday on two counts of theft from an employee benefit plan and one count of aggravated identity theft. Her husband, Jeffrey Richie, 55, pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting theft from an employee benefit plan.
Wendy now faces up to 12 years in federal prison, while Jeffrey faces up to 10 years. They may be required to pay restitution as well as a $500,000 fine.
Their company served as third party administrator for dozens of pension and retirement funds.
The Richies misappropriated funds from at least 1,000 plan participants in at least 20 employer’s retirement plans, prosecutors say.
Wendy 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, she transferred it into Vantage’s operating account, then into personal bank accounts, the attorney’s office said.
According to the indictment, prosecutors allege Wendy wired money as an escrow payment for the purchase of a property in Red Oak. She also allegedly transferred money from the Vantage Benefits Administrators account to the couple's joint account and wrote a check to buy a four-wheel-drive Kubota tractor, the federal lawsuit says.
On Dec. 23, 2016, Wendy wired money from VBA's account to their personal account and wrote a check to pay for new wood floors, electric and carpentry for their Red Oak home, prosecutors said.
After a Vantage employee confronted Jeffrey about Wendy’s conduct, Wendy continued to embezzle money from the funds, the attorney's office said. At least $6.2 million of the $15.2 million Wendy embezzled was taken with Jeffrey’s knowledge, the office said.
The Richies admitted to submitting more than 90 unauthorized distribution requests from 13 pension plans and seven retirement plans from 2014 and 2017.
“This couple took advantage of innocent people who were working hard and saving for their future,” U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox said in October 2018 when the couple was charged. “We cannot permit such brazen financial misconduct to go unchecked.”
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.