Prudential fined $950K for missing ‘red flags’ in $1.3M elder heist

moneyfistA regulatory group said Tuesday it fined Prudential Annuities Distributors Inc. $950,000 for “failing to detect and prevent” a scheme that resulted in the theft of about $1.3 million from an 89-year-old customer’s variable annuity account.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which bases a toll-free helpline in Boca Raton, said the firm repeatedly failed to check out “red flags” about Travis A. Wetzel, whom it described as a former registered sales assistant at LPL Financial and since-convicted felon.

Wetzel was transferring money from the customer’s Prudential variable annuity account to a third-party bank account in his wife’s maiden name, officials said. FINRA said it barred Wetzel in 2013.

Prudential agreed to the resolution without denying or admitting charges.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter,” a company statement said. “When we learned of the fraud committed by the unaffiliated third party broker, we immediately initiated our own investigation and subsequently restored all missing funds to the annuity contract owner. We believe that the settlement is in the best interests of all concerned.”

A toll-free FINRA helpline for seniors can be reached at (844) 574-3577.

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