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Minnesota advisor pleads guilty in annuity theft case

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John Heath, a financial advisor based in Edina, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to identity theft this week in a case that accused him of draining $220,000 from an elderly stroke victim’s annuity account, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

A second count of theft by swindle will be dropped along with a seperate case that claims he stole thousands of dollars from an 83-year-old woman, Freeman’s office said in a news release. Because of the second case, Heath agreed to a prison term of 41 months, which is expected to be handed down at a hearing in December.

During the plea hearing, Heath indicated he had been the client’s advisor for about 20 years and helped him establish an annuity in 2008 that grew to $220,000. The unidentified client suffered a stroke in 2013 and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In January 2015, Heath allegedly submitted a service request form under his client’s name asking his contact information to be updated to Heath’s home and email addresses. According to the complaint, Heath then opened a checking account at Wings Financial, using his client’s social security number, birth date and driver’s license number, all of which he acquired in his role as advisor.

The client was unaware the account had been established.

In September, 2015, Heath began withdrawing funds from the annuity. The complaint says Heath used the stolen funds to pay a credit card bill and to make purchases. Wings became suspicious of the activity and froze the checking account in January 2016.

“Everyone involved in this case did a good job, from employees at Wings Financial who saw irregularities, to the Robbinsdale police and the Minnesota Department of Commerce investigators,” Freeman said.