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Kirkland broker pleads guilty for theft of $9.4 million from investors

A former investment advisor in Kirkland, Rhonda L. Breard pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud, in connection with a scheme to defraud dozens of clients out of millions of dollars.

Breard, 47, entered her guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Seattle in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue. According to the information filed against Breard, she defrauded 37 individuals out of at least $9.4 million.

She told the investors the money would be placed in a variety of financial and insurance products. Instead, Breard used the money for her own expenses, and mailed phoney statements to these customers. Breard faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced on July 9.

Breard agreed to forfeit three home and more than two dozen vehicles during the hearing Thursday. The list of assets she will surrender includes homes on Lake Washington, a 2009 Cadillac Escalade, a 2009 Mercedes Benz SL 550, five snowmobiles, three jet-skis, four all-terrain vehicles; and various trailers, trucks, cars and mobile homes.

Also on the list is $100,000 cash seized from a safe deposit box and $150,000 seized from another bank account. Many of the assets are significantly mortgaged. The cash and the seized assets, which will be sold at an auction, will ultimately be provided to the victims of the scheme.

The charges against Breard detailed how victims in this case trusted Breard with their money after hearing her speak in investment classes at locations such as community colleges. Some clients had invested with Breard for a number of years.

She had worked as an independent contractor for ING Financial Partners since 2004. The fraud came to light in early February 2010, when an auditor with ING Financial Partners made an unannounced visit to Breard's Kirkland office. The auditor found a locked file cabinet in her office. He was told that it contained only Breard's personal tax information. When the file was unlocked at his request, he found a number of client files that revealed Breard had not made investments with client money, but had used it for her own benefit.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions and the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carl Blackstone and Matthew Diggs.

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