Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The CEO of Guardian Angels Representative Payee Services, a private company that managed the finances for special needs or infirm people, has been indicted on charges of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from clients.
According to the indictment filed in 2nd Judicial District Court on Tuesday, between June and November of last year, 56-year-old Pamela Crumpler “did convert to her own use money belonging to her clients,” and it was “with intent at the time of conversion to fraudulently deprive the owner of his/her property.”
She then put the money back into her clients’ bank accounts to avoid getting caught, according to the indictment.
“No one should take advantage of vulnerable individuals in our community,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a news release. “We are prepared to present this case at trial.”
Crumpler is charged with embezzlement over $20,000 and tampering with evidence.
The Journal could not reach her for comment.
Representative payee and guardianship companies operate by taking control of their clients’ Social Security or other government benefits, annuity payments or settlement proceeds and paying their clients’ expenses for food, housing and other needs.
This is the third instance in the past two years where such a company has been charged with embezzling funds from clients.
The other two companies, Ayudando Guardians Inc. and Desert State Life Management, were accused of taking millions of dollars from clients and have since been shut down.
In fact, Balderas said, many of the clients Crumpler is accused of siphoning money from came to her from the now-defunct Ayudando Guardians.
Ayudando Guardians Inc., one of the state’s largest guardian and representative payee services firms, was shuttered in August 2017. Its chief financial officer, president, the president’s son and the president’s husband were federally charged in a $4 million embezzlement scheme that prosecutors say supported their lavish spending habits on luxury cruises and vacations.
The four are awaiting trial.
After Ayudando shut down, its estimated 1,400 clients were transferred to other guardians or firms – including the nonprofit Guardian Angels.
Balderas said Crumpler’s scheme began in 2018 when BBVA Compass Bank began running a promotion that would deposit $200 into new accounts that met certain requirements.
According to a letter Balderas sent to the bank, Crumpler took advantage of this promotion and shifted 247 of her clients’ accounts to the bank. Then, he said, she withdrew the bonus money and deposited it into her own account.
“In total, the CEO of GARP embezzled nearly $50,000 of funds designed to go specifically to the benefit of these vulnerable persons,” Balderas wrote in the letter.
Crumpler could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
The indictment comes less than three weeks after Paul Donisthorpe, the CEO of another nonprofit trust company, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for stealing $4.8 million from more than 70 clients.
Desert State Life Management is now closed, but it had acted as a conservator and fiduciary for developmentally or physically disabled and elderly individuals.
In early February, Balderas asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for assistance in combatting what he called a guardianship crisis in the state. He said the current lack of state regulation and oversight of the process has led to repeated exploitation of a vulnerable population.
A bill being considered by lawmakers would add additional safeguards to help prevent such vulnerable people from being exploited by their money managers and guardians.