A federal judge was unimpressed with a Gettysburg attorney's apology Wednesday for defrauding her clients of $6 million that she diverted from a trust fund before sentencing her to 15 years’ imprisonment plus restitution and forfeiture totaling more than $12 million.
In sentencing Wendy Weikal-Beauchat, Judge John E. Jones stated that she had stolen from clients who were members of the depression and WWII generation and had undermined public trust in lawyers. He dismissed her statement that she had “messed up” by saying that her conduct was essentially stealing from her clients and that her apology was “hollow.”
Jones ordered Weikal-Beauchat into custody by U.S. Marshals to begin serving her sentence immediately after the hearing at the Harrisburg United States District Court. He also ordered $6,365,913 in restitution and $6,341,451 in forfeiture. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the restitution amount in this case is higher because it includes expenses incurred by the victims, such as legal fees, above and beyond the proceeds of the crime.
Weikal-Beauchat, who has since been disbarred, was an attorney with the Gettysburg firm of Beauchat and Beauchat, concentrating on estate, trust, and long-term care planning. According to the evidence, beginning in 2007, Weikal-Beauchat diverted approximately $6 million from a trust account she maintained for her clients at M&T Bank.
Weikal-Beauchat used the crime proceeds to operate her law firm, and for vacations and other personal expenses. She falsely represented she could invest in certificates of deposit with high interest rates as a result of her “special relationship” with M&T Bank. She generated bogus bank CDs and distributed them to her clients to further mislead them.
When several clients and M&T Bank questioned Weikal-Beauchat’s handling of the funds and/or initiated complaints against her, she made false statements, submitted false documents and said that she had hired an accountant to help her respond to the questions about the law firm’s activities. In reality there was no accountant.
Weikal-Beauchat was charged in a criminal information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on November 4, 2013. She pleaded guilty on November 15.