A former Ameriprise financial advisor was arrested by FBI agents last week for allegedly embezzling at least $2 million from her clients, according to federal prosecutors in California.
Li Lin Hsu solicited her victims through ads in local Chinese language newspapers, fooling them into thinking she would invest their funds when in fact she used the money to treat herself to luxury items and real estate, including a near $1 million condominium in Diamond Bar, California, investigators claim.
She also purportedly spent the money on personal expenses, including credit card bills and personal loans.
Hsu faces three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of obstruction of justice. Each of the fraud counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the money laundering and obstruction of justice charges carry a 10-year and five-year prison term, respectively.
Hsu pleaded not guilty in federal court and was released on a $50,000 bond. She did not respond to an email message seeking comment.
Hsu allegedly attempted to conceal her scheme by using some of the money stolen from victims to pay back other victims and sending them fabricated account statements and investment purchase confirmations, according to the indictment.
At least 11 victims were duped by the scheme, prosecutors say. Hsu reportedly solicited investments from clients over a five-year period while employed at Ameriprise and after her termination from the firm in March 2015.
Hsu had a troubled history with Ameriprise, beginning with her dismissal from the firm for alleged company policy violations. After her departure, Ameriprise took legal action against her when it discovered that she was passing herself off as an Ameriprise advisor by claiming on her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles that she was still employed there and using the firm's stationery to reach out to clients.
The firm also went after Hsu after settling a customer arbitration claim in which Hsu was involved for $675,000. A FINRA arbitration panel ordered Hsu to compensate Ameriprise for the full $675,000 that it paid to settle the customer claim.
Hsu worked for Ameriprise in Glendale, California, from January 2006 until her termination in March 2015, according to her BrokerCheck report. She was barred from the industry by FINRA in June 2016, a decision she appealed to the SEC. In November 2016, Hsu was barred permanently.
Ameriprise declined to comment on Hsu’s latest legal woes, saying that it was not aware of the criminal case brought against her by federal prosecutors in California.