SEATTLE - The King County Sheriff's Department has opened and closed its investigation into local financial guru Rhonda Breard. But that doesn't mean the investigation is over. Just the opposite.
Last Thursday investigators sent the case on to state investigators after "closing the case with exceptional clearance," according to a department spokesman.
According to written department guidelines, "a case can be closed exceptional if it can be established that a crime has been committed and the identity of a suspect is positively confirmed, but due to circumstances beyond our control, no charges are filed."
In this case, the matter has been handed over to securities investigators who are now trying to find out what happened to millions of dollars in retirement accounts.
An F.B.I. spokesman says the bureau is "aware of the case."
Fifth-grade teacher Sandee Gren had hoped to retire in a few years. Those plans are now on hold as half of her retirement account, roughly $300,000, has vanished - the nest egg she had entrusted to Rhonda Breard.
"I stood in that woman's office pouring my heart out about how I've been a single parent, how I'd just lost my daughter and I needed to know what to do with my stocks," says Gren.
Breard, a TV-savvy financial advisor, was fired by investment brokerage ING for altering customer statements. She is now the subject of a state and federal investigation.
Breard wasn't so camera-friendly today when we dropped by her multi-million-dollar waterfront mansion. She ignored our requests for an interview as she loaded into a car and drove away.
Breard isn't the only one under the microscope. ING played a supervisory role in her transactions, so they may be on the hook as well.
"More importantly, did they do the proper interview about what she was doing and could they have found out when looking at files that something was amiss?" asked attorney John Bender.
Bender represents another of Breard's alleged victims, Gordon Overbye, who's out $844,000.
"When I first called ING to verify accounts, they told me in fact I had the account numbers, but my name was not on those accounts," he said.
Former clients, including Sandee Gren, continue to follow the paper trail, one they hope will ultimately lead to their life savings.
"I just want my money back so I can retire," said Gren.
Attorney John Bender advises anyone who thinks they might be a victim of Rhonda Breard to organize their records, including proofs of deposits, and contact the state Department of Financial Institutions.
Breard was fired by ING Financial Partners, INC, and reported to federal regulators for what the company said was "investigation of alleged violations of firm policy regarding the alteration of customer statements and the representative's improper handling of customer checks."
One source says ING noticed the statements customers were provided were not printed using official typeface. The discrepancy in fonts raised red flags.