Wells Fargo adviser charged with ripping off elderly eye doctor
Elderly New Jersey eye doctor claims his Wells Fargo financial adviser embezzled more than $1.8 million from his investment accounts, then took another $900,000 to buy himself a luxury home, legal document costs .
Dr. Kenette Sohmer, 77, is suing Kenneth Welsh to take possession of the five-bedroom house at River Edge in Bergen County.
Welsh managed Sohmer’s retirement accounts at Wells Fargo until he was fired in June.
He was arrested in October for allegedly scamming five clients, including Sohmer, for a total of at least $2.8 million, transferring their money to his own accounts in order to gamble, buy gold or other luxury items, according to legal documents.
He was charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of investment adviser fraud, according to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also faces a separate lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sohmer told the Post that she met Welsh through her late father and trusted him to make financial decisions with her money invested in Wells Fargo.
Unbeknownst to Sohmer, Welsh also dipped into his accounts at two other banks, withdrawing $898,000 on April 30, 2019, according to court documents. The next day, Welsh and his wife, Monica, paid $900,000 for the River Edge home.
Sohmer said she was “devastated” to learn of Welsh’s alleged theft in August 2021.
“I am 77 years old, I have been working for years. I will need this retirement income,” said Sohmer, who is divorced and has no children. She still practices in Branchburg, NJ.
On Monday, a New Jersey Superior Court judge awarded Sohmer $909,000 in damages for the home, but not for the property itself, which the doctor wants to sell.
Jay Sabin, Sohmer’s attorney, said he would ask the court to reconsider and expedite the title transfer to the doctor.
Wells Fargo returned the money Welsh allegedly took, but Sohmer is seeking compensation of at least $10 million through an arbitration process.
“If Wells Fargo had done its job and looked after its staff the way it should, it’s extremely likely that they would have caught him before he started financially abusing Dr. Sohmer,” Sabin said, who is with Brach Eichler. in Roseland, NJ.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the company holds “our employees to the highest ethical standards. We notified regulators and law enforcement of this matter and the financial adviser was fired.
A lawyer for Welsh declined to comment.