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CECILIA SAWYER AKA CECILIA VILLANUEVA BARRED BY FINRA FOR CLAIMING ANNUITY INVESTOR'S DEATH BENEFITS

Cecilia Sawyer aka Cecilia Villanueva, a former broker at Duluth, Georgia based PFS Investments Inc., has been sanctioned based on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's (FINRA) findings that she claimed her customer's variable annuity death benefits for her own personal use. After one of Ms. Sawyer's customers invested $130,000 in a variable annuity, the annuitant died and the beneficiary divorced the same year. No annuity claim was filed at the time. FINRA stated that more than three years later, Ms. Sawyer made a claim for the death benefit and directed it to be mailed to the beneficiary at a mailbox she opened. A $148,361 check was mailed to the beneficiary at the mailbox, where Ms. Sawyer exercised control of the check by depositing it in a checking account she opened in the beneficiary's name, without his knowledge or consent. Ms. Sawyer and her husband withdrew funds from the account for their own benefit. The findings also stated that Ms. Sawyer failed to respond to FINRA requests for information and documents. Ms. Sawyer, of Federal Way, Washington, was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity.

Broker-dealers must establish and implement a reasonable supervisory system to protect customers from broker misconduct. If broker-dealers do not establish and implement a reasonable supervisory system, they may be liable to investors for damages flowing from the misconduct. Therefore, investors who have suffered damages due to illegal acts such as those allegedly committed by Ms. Sawyer can bring forth claims to recover losses against broker-dealers like PFS Investments, which should have prevented Ms. Sawyer from committing the above described conduct.

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