A financial advisor who previously worked for New York Life Insurance has been indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested on charges he allegedly defrauded an elderly Durham woman through mail and wire frauds.
Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, announced the arrest on Tuesday after a federal grand jury sitting in Raleigh previously returned an indictment charging Furman Alexander Ford, 49, of Raleigh with 11 counts each of Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud.
Between August 2014 and December 2014, Ford allegedly committed Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud based on the defendant’s scheme to submit fraudulent withdrawal letters on behalf of an elderly victim to New York Life Insurance (NYL) for payments totaling $246,000. Ford worked as a financial advisor for NYL.
In 2009, the victim inherited real property valued at $1.3 million from a relative in Durham, NC. After the estate was settled, Ford assisted the victim in setting-up a charitable trust with NYL using the inheritance proceeds. He worked as an insurance and financial agent at NYL from 2012 to 2015, and met the victim through a mutual friend. The charitable trust agreement provided an annuity payment in the amount of $6,000 per month to victim during her lifetime. As part of Ford’s responsibility as a financial agent, he drafted and submitted authorized letters of withdrawal from the victim’s trust account to pay certain expenses. Under NYL customer service guidelines, the financial agent is required to have the client sign the letter with “wet ink” before submitting to NYL via the mail. The funds would then be electronically wired to the recipient as directed by the client with their full knowledge and consent.
During the course of this investigation, agents identified eleven separate fraudulent letters of withdraw drafted by Furman Ford and submitted to NYL headquarters in New York on behalf of his client. The letters were all mailed by Ford via UPS from his office in Raleigh. The funds requested ranged from $5,000 to $45,000 and totaled $246,000. The proceeds were then electronically wired into the victim’s personal checking account in clear violation of NYL policy. Agents believe the defendant “cut and paste” the victim’s signature from a legitimate letter before making a copy and sending it to NYL on some of the fraudulent letters and on the remaining letters, her signature had been forged. The forged signatures appear to be signed by the same person, presumably Ford.
If convicted on all of the charges, Ford could face a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years, and restitution.
Investigation of this case was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ethan Ontjes is prosecuting the case for the government.
UPDATED: This story has been updated to reflect the victim is from Durham, NC and not Fayetteville, NC as originally announced.