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North Carolina man convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft

A federal jury convicted a Raleigh man March 10 on eleven counts of mail fraud, eleven counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft, according to a press release from the Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Furman Alexander Ford, 51, was a New York Life (NYL) financial advisor who was advising a 72-year-old client who had recently inherited real property valued at $1.3 million.

“Ford assisted in the sale of the property and the setting-up of a charitable annuity trust with NYL using the sale proceeds. Ford worked as an insurance and financial agent at NYL from 2012 to 2015, and the victim was his primary client while employed at NYL,” stated the release. “The charitable annuity was set-up to pay the victim $6,000 per month during her lifetime. As part of Ford’s responsibility as the victim’s financial agent, he drafted and submitted authorized letters of withdrawal from her annuity account to pay for certain expenses. Under NYL customer service guidelines, the financial agent is required to have the client sign the withdrawal letter in person with ‘wet ink’ before submitting it 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 investigation, agents identified twenty separate fraudulent letters of withdrawal drafted by Ford and submitted to NYL headquarters in New York, NY, on behalf of Ms. Jones. 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 over $400,000. The proceeds were then electronically wired by NYL to Ford’s personal checking account,” the release continued. “An FBI financial analysis traced the funds to the purchase by Ford of various personal items, including a BMW vehicle, Rolex watches, firearms, child support, and a cruise to the Bahamas. On December 29, 2014, Ford withdrew $1 million from the victim’s annuity account. Ford stole over $1.3 million from the victim.”

“Integrity and trust are characteristics that all financial agents should embody,” said G. Norman Acker III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “Unfortunately, the defendant used his position to prey upon one of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and today he was held accountable for his criminal actions. Our office is dedicated to prosecuting fraud cases, particularly those directed at the elderly, and will continue to use our resources to bring to justice those who take advantage of others to line their pockets with money.”

Ford faces a maximum penalty of 444 months in prison when sentenced during the August 3, 2021 term of court.

Acker made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan accepted the verdict. The United States Postal Inspectors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan A. Ontjes and Special Assistant United States Attorney Tamika Moses prosecuted.

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