A federal judge sentenced former Vanguard Group supervisor Scott Capps on Thursday to four years in prison for stealing $2.1 million from the accounts of dead or inactive Vanguard customers by using passwords he stole from his staff.
The 23-year Vanguard veteran’s thefts, which occurred between 2012 and his departure from the Malvern investment giant in 2014, were “difficult to detect” and were unknown to Vanguard or to authorities, until Lance Tobin, Capps’ brother-in-law, voluntarily reported it to law enforcement, federal prosecutor David Ignall told the courtroom.
“I don’t know, without Tobin coming forward, if anyone would ever have found out,” the prosecutor added.
Vanguard did make all individual accounts whole after the crimes were discovered, the government said.
Company spokeswoman Carol Wegemann said that “Vanguard further tightened and enhanced controls to protect our clients and the firm since the incident. We’re not going to comment on the case further.”
The company wouldn’t discuss changes to the company’s security procedures since Capps admitted raiding accounts that had been slated to be “escheated,” or transferred to state treasurers as unclaimed assets.
Escheated funds can later be reclaimed by account holders’ heirs if they can prove it’s theirs. Pennsylvania netted $200 million from dormant financial accounts last year. Delaware, which hires private firms to find dormant funds for the state, netted more than $500 million.
Capps, 48, of Coatesville, pleaded guilty in March to all counts in the indictment, including the filing of false tax returns. He admitted using about $1 million he kept from the thefts for family restaurant meals, vacations, and other expenses he admitted were “frivolous” at his sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson.
After stealing the passwords of subordinates, Capps was able to access the Vanguard system that issues checks. He arranged for checks on dormant accounts to be sent to Tobin, who later shared the proceeds with Capps. Altogether, the two men took $2.1 million.
Besides the prison term, Capps was sentenced Thursday to make restitution of $2,137,580 and forfeit $648,600, and three years’ supervision after release.
Tobin, who did not work for Vanguard, pleaded guilty to his role in receiving and using money stolen by Capps in 2016. He is scheduled to be released from a federal prison in New Jersey next month.
Capps was ordered to report for assignment to a prison in October, after arranging for the sale of his sports memorabilia collection, worth an estimated $10,000, as a payment toward his restitution. A Vanguard lawyer in the courtroom, who declined to testify before Baylson, told Ignall that the company hoped to get that money and other assets back from Capps.
Capps testified that he could more easily perform restitution if he were allowed to remain at his job as assistant to real estate broker Rebecca Rynkiewicz. Rynkiewicz testified that she trusted Capps with her firm’s funds, and that he had improved her business since she hired him last year. Asked if she would hire him again after his release from prison, she said she would, if she had an opening.
But Baylson, citing sentencing guidelines and the prosecutor’s sentencing memo calling for at least 63 months in prison, said employees at Vanguard and other companies need to be dissuaded from stealing customers’ money by knowing they will go to prison, if they can be caught.
On Capps’ behalf, public defender Leigh M. Skinner argued that Capps had confessed his crime, and at a meeting with federal agents in January, “outlined the whole scheme and his participation,” hoping for a lighter sentence.
But prosecutor Ignall said the government did not consider Capps’ assistance “substantial” enough to agree to make a big difference.
Before Capps testified, his sister and stepmother said he had grown up poor, with a father who spent little time with him. The sister, Rebecca A. Capps Howley, said his biological brother (corrected) had been “abusive” and identified him among the courtroom spectators. The man did not address the court and walked rapidly out of the courtroom as Baylson adjourned.
Capps said he felt “humiliation, remorse, for everything that happened and everything I did.” He added, "I was handed a gold mine, after I grew up, by Vanguard. They allowed me to work my butt off.” He blamed himself for abusing the company’s trust, and promised “never to do anything like this again. I look forward to the opportunity of working hard and repaying every penny.”
But Baylson called Capps’ theft “extremely large,” and added, “If all that happened as a result of [stealing] a million dollars and being part of a theft was house arrest, well, there will be a lot of people serving house arrest.” He called the prison sentence “a major deterrent to people who have access to large amounts of cash” that belong to other people.