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Two former investment agents accused of swindling elderly clients

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Two former employees of Ameriprise Financial Services are accused of defrauding elderly clients and their former employer of more than $930,000, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the department said Barbara Stark of Eden Prairie and Susan Walker of Plymouth stole money from the retirement accounts of elderly and vulnerable clients to "fund a lavish lifestyle that included multiple vacations, payments for a Lexus, private school tuition and rent."

Stark and Walker allegedly defrauded at least 21 clients while employed by Ameriprise from 2008-13, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Ameriprise has reimbursed clients $798,340 in connection with the fraud.

Stark and Walker met their victims through various professional roles as an insurance agent, notary public, certified financial planner, and securities agents, the investigation showed. They made unauthorized withdrawals from retirement accounts and forged signatures on securities and insurance related documents, according to the charges.

The two women opened bank accounts in their clients’ names without permission to hold the stolen funds, and the charging document said they spent the money on cruises, hotels, airfare, ATM withdrawals, and even two payments to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

The Commerce Department has filed an order to show cause and statement of charges in the case. The outcome will determine what civil penalties and other disciplinary actions might be taken against the women.

Neither woman, nor their attorney, could be reached for comment by the Pioneer Press.

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