A former Bank of America Merrill Lynch financial advisor and a "business associate" were arrested on charges that they fraudulently wired $2.2 million from an account of National Football League player Dwight Freeney.
That client, who is only identified in court documents as “D.F., a professional football player” is Indianapolis Colts defense end Dwight Freeney, an official with knowledge of the case confirmed.
The defendants, former BofA Merrill Lynch financial advisor Eva D. Weinberg, 48, and Michael A. Stern, 51, have been charged with wire fraud in connection with the case, which was filed March 22 in federal court in the Central District of California.
Freeney first met Weinberg around January 2009 when she was working in private banking at Merrill Lynch, according to the criminal complaint. Shortly after that, Freeney agreed to become Weinberg’s client, allowing her to oversee his personal bank accounts, Hollywood, Calif., restaurant and real estate investments.
Weinberg left Merrill Lynch in early 2010 to become Freeney’s personal financial manager, the complaint stated. She also introduced Freeney to Stern, court documents show. Weinberg allegedly told Freeney Stern's name was Michael Millar, and that he could help Feeney with business opportunities.
Freeney never signed on to work with Stern, according to the criminal complaint, but both Weinberg and Stern and other unidentified individuals allegedly conspired together to commit fraud against him, authorities said. That allegedly included a total of $2.2 million in wire transfers from Freeney’s bank accounts from June 2010 through October 2011. Weinberg allegedly authorized the transfers as Freeney’s personal financial manager, and the funds went into accounts controlled by Stern and other unnamed individuals.
“There was no legitimate purpose for these wire transfers, and they were not authorized by D.F. – as neither Weinberg nor Stern ever notified D.F. of the wire transfers,” the criminal complaint states. “Once the money was wired from D.F.’s accounts, Weinberg, Stern and others benefited by using the money for personal expenditures that were not related to D.F.”
A lawyers for Weinberg did not return calls. Stern's attorney, Henry Bell of Miami, says his client "denies the allegations and maintains he didn't violate the law." A Bank of America Merrill Lynch spokesman declined to comment, as did Freeney’s agent.
The scheme was uncovered by an FBI investigation that included a confidential informant. Audio recordings of that informant’s conversations with Stern include Stern’s admission that both he and Weinberg were part of the scheme, the criminal complaint states.
They also include conversations whereby Stern tried to get the informant to travel from Miami to Los Angeles to destroy possible evidence. That evidence includes a Macintosh computer, which was inside a Lexus SUV at Los Angeles International Airport.
Stern also allegedly indicated in those conversations that both he and Weinberg, who authorities believe are involved romantically, might leave the country within a week, the complaint states. Stern also said that he had personal connections in the Bahamas, Israel and Trinidad who could help him hide. In addition, he said that he and Weinberg planned to travel to Israel
for Passover in April, in part to avoid Weinberg’s arrest by the FBI.
Stern was arrested last Thursday as he was on his way to the airport, while Weinberg was taken into custody the following day. Weinberg is now free after posting $225,000 bond.
Stern had a hearing a Miami U.S. District Court Wednesday, where he waived the opportunity for a removal hearing, according to the FBI. Stern will be transported to Los Angeles sometime in the next few weeks where he will then have an initial appearance in court there. A date for that appearance has not been scheduled.
Weinberg has not been registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority since July 2010. Prior to that, she worked at Merrill Lynch in Miami for one year; her public registration records show, following five years at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and almost five years at Prudential Securities.
Lorie Konish writes for On Wall Street.
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