The federal government has charged a central Pennsylvania attorney with
wire fraud and money laundering for a scheme to defraud eight clients of more than $3 million.
The charges, which were announced Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Harrisburg, allege that Gettysburg, Pa. attorney Wendy Weikal-Beauchat, 46, misappropriated client funds to pay for her business and personal expenses.
U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, says the alleged fraud scheme unfolded back in 2007 and had continued up through this year.
Prosecutors filed the federal charges in the form of a criminal “information,” which, unlike an indictment, generally signals that a defendant intends to plead guilty.
The government claims that Weikal-Beauchat concealed her fraudulent actions by providing clients with bogus certificates of deposit and Internal Revenue Service 1099 interest forms.
While the eight alleged victims have already been identified, investigators are continuing to look into whether there were more people scammed by the defendant, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“The IRS enforces the nation’s tax laws, but also takes particular interest in cases where someone, for their own personal benefit, has taken what belonged to others,” Akeia Conner, an IRS special agent in charge of criminal investigations, said in a statement. “With both law enforcement and financial investigation expertise, our agents are uniquely qualified to assist with these types of cases by following the money. IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to bring our forensic accounting skills to this joint venture and help put a stop to this and other types of white collar crime.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also noted that it has already filed a plea agreement that has yet to be approved by a federal judge.
In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko said the agency is dedicated to investigating financial “schemes” at all levels, and working with other governmental agencies to ensure that “white-collar crooks” are held accountable for their actions.
“When a lawyer, an officer of the court, defrauds clients, it’s a serious crime – and a heinous breach of trust,” Hanko stated.
In this case, Weikal-Beauchat faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison, a subsequent term of supervised release, forfeiture and an unspecified fine.
According to the Associated Press, the defendant agreed to be disbarred back in February.
The AP also reported that Weikal-Beauchat had worked in estate and long-term care planning.
The woman’s defense attorney, Joseph Sembrot, told the AP that his client has taken responsibility for the mistakes she has made, which is why she opted to plead guilty to the charges against her.
“Her goal is to help, at this point, as best she can those people she hurt: her clients and family members,” Sembrot was quoted as saying.