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Texas business owner stole from employee benefit fund

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act was enacted in 1974 so that employees in Bexar County and throughout the country would have access to their pension and other benefits promised by their employers. ERISA generally covers employer-provided life insurance, accidental death insurance, disability insurance, health insurance and retirement plans among other benefits.

In a recent case in Dallas an insurance man has been found guilty of not only violating ERISA but of violating several criminal laws. He was recently sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing from an employee benefit fund and running a Ponzi scheme while he awaited trial.

The man owned a Dallas area company and was also an ERISA fund's trustee. In February of last year he was accused of withdrawing money from that fund for his own benefit. He reportedly tried to leave a paper trail to legitimize the transfers, but in reality he and his family were using the money for luxury cars, house payments, private insurance policies and taxes.

In April he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement from the employee benefit plan as well as conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The latter charge is related to a scam he ran while awaiting trial on the earlier charge.

Most ERISA violations do not result from clear and blatant theft like this. While some issues do involve the conduct of employee benefit plan managers, what may be more typical are problems with the investment of plan assets or the reporting and disclosure provided to employees, or the violation of workers' benefit rights.

Millions of Americans pay into retirement and benefit plans throughout their working careers--either directly, or indirectly as a benefit of employment--and ERISA protects these assets so that they are there when a worker needs to claim them.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Old Dude Just Wouldn't Play Fair," David Lee, Nov. 1, 2012

  • Our San Antonio law firm handles denied benefit claims and other ERISA claims. For more information about our Texas employment law practice, visit our Employment Benefit Litigation/ERISA page.

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