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Published on April 18, 2024
Former Citibank VP in Chicago Sentenced to 2½ Years for Defrauding Elderly Clients of $1.5 MillionSource: Chicago Police Department

A former VP from Citibank in Chicago is facing 2½ years in prison after being accused of defrauding elderly clients out of nearly $1.5 million. Helen Grace Caldwell, 59, was sentenced this Wednesday, as reported by Chicago Sun-Times. Caldwell who worked at Citibank's South Michigan Avenue office was likened to a bank robber by U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly, albeit without a mask and a gun.

During her sentencing, Caldwell, previously a film producer on the side, expressed remorse for misguiding her clients to invest in her production company, Canal Productions. Kennelly wasn't swayed by her tearful apologies, emphasizing that Caldwell exploited the trust of her clients. "The only difference between Ms. Caldwell and a bank robber is that she didn’t have a mask and a gun. And actually, in some ways, it was worse because they trusted her — and she knew they trusted her," the judge stated in an excerpt reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. Caldwell must also pay full restitution to her three victims and will face three years of supervised release post-prison.

The extent of Caldwell's deception surfaced in the "Exploited Elders" series by Injustice Watch, which shed light on the gaps in Illinois' elder protection mechanisms. Caldwell's use of her movie production business as a front to bilk clients was noted by Block Club Chicago back in January when she was initially charged. According to the charges, Caldwell knew the promised film investments were not legitimate but used the funds for her personal expenses, including upscale home renovations and settling parking tickets.

Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert is taking legal action against Caldwell as well, seeking repayment for the victims' losses. "Now, it’s time for Citigroup to finally make its customers whole and repay them the money that its employee defrauded from their Citi accounts," Golbert told the Chicago Sun-Times. Meanwhile, Citi maintained that it should not be held liable for Caldwell's activities, despite the assertions of victims and their families who believe the company's environment enabled her criminal actions.

The fallout from Caldwell's actions, including the gaps they revealed in elder financial protection laws in Illinois, has instigated legal changes. Notably, a new law has shifted the responsibility of investigating certain elder fraud cases from the Department on Aging to the Illinois Attorney General's Office. Reaction to this development has been mixed, with some officials like McHenry County state’s attorney Patrick Kenneally criticizing the law for reducing bureaucratic workload at the expense of public interest. These events continue to highlight the ongoing issue of elder financial exploitation, as referenced in both the Block Club Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times reports.