On Wednesday, November 30, a Texas man was indicted in connection to a scheme to steal more than $545,000 from a retirement account after the account owner and his designated beneficiary both died.
An 11-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges Dwayne Ellis Baptiste, 43, with four counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, four counts of money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, Baptiste lived in Huntsville in 2011 and was acquainted with Ralph Swinehart, who along with his father, Ronald Swinehart, also lived in Huntsville. Ronald Swinehart was a retired employee of Lockheed Martin Corporation and had a retirement savings account through the company. The retirement account was held at ING Institutional Plan Services.
In September 2011, Ronald Swinehart signed and executed a durable power of attorney naming his son Ralph Swinehart as his agent. Ronald Swinehart died on Oct. 11, 2011. His son died on Oct. 23, 2011.
Baptiste filed a fraudulent power of attorney in Madison County Probate Court in October appointing himself as Ronald Swinehart’s agent, according to the indictment. In December 2011, Baptiste opened two commercial accounts, which he controlled, in the name of Swinehart Investment Solutions at BBVA Compass Bank. Baptiste also changed the beneficiary designation on Ronald Swinehart’s retirement account from Ralph Swinehart to himself, according to the indictment.
Baptiste then changed the bank account information on Ronald Swinehart’s retirement account, directing any distributions to be made to one of the BBVA accounts.
Baptiste committed four counts of wire fraud when he directed four transfers, totaling $545,669, from the retirement account to a BBVA account, the indictment charges.
Baptiste committed aggravated identity theft when he used Ronald Swinehart’s name, Social Security number and address, to conduct the wire fraud and mail fraud, according to the indictment.
Baptiste committed mail fraud when, on Dec. 9, 2011, he mailed to ING a package containing a fraudulent “spousal consent form,” required for making withdrawals from the ING retirement account, the indictment charges. The form purported to bear Ronald Swinehart’s signature and noted that his wife, Rosalie Swinehart, was deceased.
According to the indictment, Baptiste laundered money as follows:
On Dec. 28, 2011, he withdrew $496,085 from the BBVA account he had directed the retirement funds into, then deposited $375,000 into a new account he opened at BBVA in the name of Baptiste Inc. On Jan. 27, 2012, Baptiste drew a $225,000 check to “cash” on the new BBVA account, and three days later opened a “Baptiste Inc.” account at Regions Bank and deposited into it a $225,000 BBVA cashier’s check.
On Feb. 7, 2012, according to the indictment, Baptiste withdrew $225,000 from the Regions account.
The maximum penalty for wire fraud and mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is two years in prison, which must be served after completion of any other sentence imposed for an associated crime.