Gettysburg attorney charged with stealing millions from clients
A Central Pennsylvania attorney was charged with defrauding eight clients out of more than $3 million since 2007 and has agreed to plead guilty, according to her attorney and federal court records.
The wire fraud charges were announced on Monday against Wendy Weikal-Beauchat, 46, whose Gettysburg practice centered on estate and long-term care planning. Weikal-Beauchat allegedly stole her clients' money and hid that by sending clients bogus certificates of deposit and federal tax forms that falsely showed interest the accounts were earning. According to the charges, some of her clients were elderly and at least one was suffering from dementia.
Weikal-Beauchat agreed to be disbarred in February, according to Pennsylvania Supreme Court records, and federal court records show she signed an agreement last month to plead guilty to the charges. A court date hasn't been set, though her defense attorney, Joseph Sembrot, said he expects that to occur soon.
“She made mistakes, she understands that,” Sembrot said. “Her goal is to help, at this point, as best she can those people she hurt: her clients and family members.”
The plea agreement lists only eight clients, but efforts are ongoing to find other clients whom Weikal-Beauchat might have victimized, Harrisburg-based U.S. Attorney Peter Smith said.
The attorney kept nearly $16.5 million of her clients' money in an account, and had more than 100 clients, according to court papers filed Monday. Alleged victims are identified only by their initials in court papers. Federal prosecutors have identified $6 million that Weikal-Beauchat must forfeit as part of the criminal investigation.
“The court has a certain amount of money right now in an account that has been frozen. Whether that's going to be sufficient to satisfy the victims in this case, I don't know,” Sembrot said. He declined to comment more specifically on the ongoing investigation or the likelihood more victims will be identified.
Sembrot couldn't provide a motive for his client's actions.
“I've seen no evidence of any of the problems that one would normally think of in this kind of case, like gambling or drugs,” Sembrot said. “It's a truly unfortunate set of circumstances that have caused and will cause her more trying circumstances down the road.”