Georgia accountant defrauded elderly client, feds say

An elderly woman with dementia was robbed of around $800,000 by her accountant in Atlanta over 10 years, prosecutors say.

Now the accountant awaits sentencing.

Heidi Royal, 52, worked at an Atlanta-based wealth management firm as an accounting manager and bill payment supervisor and the unidentified woman accounting, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. The firm – which officials did not identify – allegedly provided investment advice and financial services to an elderly widow with dementia.

Royal pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, which prosecutors say took place between 2010 and 2021.

“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 the statement.

E. Jay Abt, Royal’s defense attorney, declined a McClatchy News request for comment.

According to court documents, Royal had access to the woman’s social security number, as well as bank account usernames and passwords. As part of his duties with the firm, according to prosecutors, Royal provided professional accounting services and payment of bills.

Over the years, Royal is said to have developed a close friendship with the woman and even told a colleague that she was like “a grandmother to her”, according to court documents.

Yet, beginning around June 2010, prosecutors said Royal stole the victim’s annuity payments, wrote more than 200 fraudulent cheques, withdrew money from the woman’s bank accounts and made electronic payments from customer’s accounts using PayPal.

She is also accused of impersonating the woman during phone conversations with financial institutions and using the victim’s name and social security number to open a Bank of America account to cover up the fraud. presumed.

Royal wrote checks to herself and others, prosecutors say, and withdrew money from that account.

“It is very heartbreaking that Royal manipulated a vulnerable victim and robbed her of much of her hard-earned life savings after pretending to be a close friend who was supposed to have her best interests in mind,” Special Agent Philip Wislar by acting in charge of FBI Atlanta, said in the statement.

In mid-March 2021, when the company learned of Royal’s alleged fraudulent scheme, it immediately fired Royal and reported the crime to law enforcement, the statement said.

Royal initially denied the allegations and falsely claimed the woman had promised to pay him “not less than $1,000 per month and not more than $5,000 per month”, plus expenses, according to prosecutors.

On February 14, Royal pleaded guilty to both counts.

His sentencing is scheduled for May 31, according to the statement.

This story was originally published February 15, 2022 1:53 p.m.

Cassandre Coyer is a McClatchy national real-time reporter covering the Southeast while based in Washington DC. She is an alumnus of Emerson College in Boston and joined McClatchy in 2022. Previously she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, RVA Mag, The Untitled Magazine and Suite.

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