FINRA Fines Prudential $950,000 For Elderly Customer’s Variable Annuity Account Theft

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined Prudential Annuities Distributors, Inc. $950,000 for failing to detect the theft of $1.3 million from an 89-year-old customer’s variable annuity account. Travis Wetzel, a registered sales assistant at LPL Financial, and convicted felon, allegedly transferred money from the customer’s Prudential variable annuity account to a third-party bank account in his wife’s maiden name. Wetzel was barred by FINRA in May 2013. Allegedly, from July 2010 until September 2012, Wetzel submitted to Prudential 114 forged annuity withdrawal requests, a total of nearly $50,000, requesting that Prudential Annuities wire funds from the elderly customer’s account to a third party account in the maiden name of Wetzel’s wife. Prudential subsequently followed his instructions, without realizing the red flags associated with the transactions. Prudential ignored the alerts that happened when the transactions occurred, and noticed that the funds were being sent to a third party, but concluded the actions appeared to be legitimate. Prudential did not properly investigate the transactions.

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