A Thiensville woman tasked with depositing checks for her investment club instead kept the money for her own use and provided group members with false updates on the performance of their money.
Wendy Yanow will plead guilty to one count of wire fraud, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin. Chris Donovan, Yanow's attorney, said his client is remorseful and self-reported the case to authorities.
Yanow was treasurer of Women of Wealth, an investment club that started in 1995 with five members. The group would meet at different locations each month. Members would each contribute $50 and collectively decide how to invest the money. By 2018, the group had grown to 12 members who lived in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee.
For the first seven years of the group’s existence, Yanow would deposit the checks into a bank account, transfer it to a Scottrade account and invest it.
In 2002, she stole the money in the Scottrade account and began diverting the money checks for her own personal use, according to court documents. Yanow stole $81,382 from the club from 2002 through December 2018.
Yanow concealed the scheme by tracking the group’s investment through AOL and Yahoo! stock-tracking tools from 2002 to 2008. In 2008, she started using the accounting software bivio.
By December 2018, Yanow told group members they had $426,623 in stocks despite having not made any actual investments.
The charge she faces stems from an alleged $700 deposit in 2016 into the Women of Wealth bank account. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The plea agreement calls for prosecutors to recommend no more than a 24-month sentence while Yanow and her attorney are free to recommend a sentence they feel is appropriate.
The deal also calls for Yanow to pay $81,382 in restitution prior to sentencing. Yanow and her attorney contend restitution should be capped at that amount while the government argues she should pay $374,494.
Note: This story gas been updated to reflect the plea agreement filed on June 4.