Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
July 10, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
INSURANCE AGENT CONVICTED OF STEALING OVER $131,000 FROM 82-YEAR-OLD WIDOW
SANTA ANA – An insurance agent was convicted today of stealing more than $131,000 from an 82-year-old widow after convincing her to write checks to his personal business under the pretense that she was investing in annuities. Edilberto Riveral, 57, Rancho Cucamonga, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft from an elder, one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement, and aggravated white collar crime sentencing enhancements for loss over $100,000 and $50,000. He was sentenced to one year in jail, five years of formal probation, and ordered to pay over $131,000 in restitution to the victim.
Between December 2002 and January 2003, Riveral contacted 82-year-old widow Elizabeth B., claiming to be an agent for Great American Life Insurance Company and offering to assist her with her finances. The victim trusted Riveral because he had previously done business with her husband in the past. Elizabeth B.’s husband had handled the couple’s finances until he died in 2002.
After reviewing the victims’ financial accounts, Riveral convinced Elizabeth B. to transfer $44,000 from her retirement account and $70,000 from an interest bearing account into annuities with Great American Life Insurance Company. An annuity is an investment in an insurance company with the promise of periodic financial returns. The defendant failed to provide any documentation to Elizabeth B. regarding her investment and told the victim, “Don’t worry, everything is okay,” when she inquired about her annuities. The defendant also convinced the victim to purchase $13,000 in life insurance, which she neither wanted nor needed.
In June 2003, Riveral convinced Elizabeth B. to withdraw money from her Great American Life Insurance Company annuity accounts. He instructed the victim to write a $20,000 check to Synergia Enterprises, which the victim believed to be an annuity but in reality was a company owned by Riveral. He then funneled the $20,000 into the personal accounts of family members.
In October 2003, the defendant instructed the victim to write another check for $7,400. He also told the victim that he had withdrawn money from her annuity to cover medical costs for Elizabeth B., which she did not need or authorize, and would need a $60,000 check to Synergia Enterprises to correct the error. After the victim wrote the check, Riveral again funneled the money into the personal accounts of family members.
The victim discovered the theft after the Internal Revenue Service froze and seized her bank accounts as a result of $20,000 in unpaid taxes related to the sale of her annuities in October 2003. Elizabeth B. was forced to sell her home and move in with her daughter because she could no longer financially support herself.
Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.