P.T. Barnum famously said there’s a sucker born every minute. He could have added, that same minute will see the birth of a crook who will make a career out of cheating that trusting individual. This was demonstrated in mid-December in Richmond, Virginia, when two Richmond-area businessmen each pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in separate but depressingly similar cases of financial fraud.
Insurance agent Larry J. Horsey of Chesterfield County will face up to 30 years in prison when sentenced in March for defrauding nine investors to the tune of a combined $1.9 million through his business, Heroes Academy, a nonprofit financial management company and financial education school. He offered classes in responsible money management, encouraging students, for example, to save money. From 2012 to 2016 he convinced nine individuals to open what they thought were investment or savings accounts. They could even log in to a fraudulent website to view their fake assets and accounts.
In reality, Horsey was creating fake bank documents and spending his investors’ money on his own pleasures, including vacations in Florida and Hawaii, travel to sporting events, and supporting a local semi-pro football team, according to richmondbizsense.com. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud and engaging in transactions with funds derived from unlawful activities, and agreed to pay at least $1.92 million in full restitution.
During the same week, investment advisor and broker Troy Baldridge pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $500,000 worth of client funds over five years while serving as a senior vice president of Glen Allen-based Managed Funds. (A previous employer, Capitol Securities Management, had fired him following allegations of check fraud.) According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Baldridge had forged client signatures, lied to and avoided clients who asked questions, and taken advantage of clients who weren’t paying close attention to their accounts. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud and also agreed to pay full restitution. Baldridge is looking at a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced in March.
The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated both cases, and the IRS also was involved in Horsey’s case. As Horsey and Baldridge await their sentencing, they will have plenty of company in whichever white-collar prison they end up in. While they were making their guilty pleas, the Richmond widow of a local investment banker brought a lawsuit against her former investment advisor for allegedly stealing millions of dollars that she had entrusted to a family friend after her husband’s death.