Palm Desert Man Sentenced Over Nine Years for Annuities Scam

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By Kimberly Lankford July 15, 2015

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A former Coachella Valley insurance agent was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison for swindling 13 elderly clients out of their life savings through an annuities scam, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Palm Desert resident John Paul Slawinski, 60, pleaded guilty June 5 to six felonies: three counts of embezzlement from an elderly victim, two counts of burglary and one count of tax evasion.

He also agreed to pay more than $2.8 million in restitution to the victims, $261,667 to the California Department of Insurance, and $285,902 to the state's Franchise Tax Board.

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The sentence was handed down Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez at the Riverside courthouse.

"It is important that we protect the victims of crime and this case shows how seriously we take the crime of elder abuse, whether that abuse is physical, mental, or financial," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. "When a victim loses much or all of their life savings later in life, that loss can be devastating."

Authorities opened an investigation in 2012 after receiving complaints about Slawinski's handling of client annuities. Investigators determined that, from 2009 to 2013, Slawinski convinced elderly clients to sell him their annuities, amid promises to put them in better annuities. The clients would write personal checks to Slawinski for the value of the financial products, but instead of purchasing new annuities, he would deposit the money into his personal bank account, prosecutors said.

Slawinski's license to sell life and health insurance was revoked in 2014.

"Thanks to the joint efforts of the Department of Insurance and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, this former insurance agent has been brought to justice and will no longer be able to prey on innocent seniors," said state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

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