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Former SL man sent to prison for embezzling from elderly client

Becky Vargo • Feb 8, 2019 at 3:38 PM

MUSKEGON — A former Spring Lake man will spend at least seven and a half years and up to 20 years in prison for embezzling from a former, long-term client.

Gary Edward Haynes, 57, of Comstock Park was sentenced Friday in Muskegon County Circuit Court on two counts of embezzling from a vulnerable adult.

Judge Annette Smedley also ordered him to serve between two and a half and five years in prison on 12 counts of violating tax law.

The sentences will be served concurrently, the judge said.

Haynes, who has been free on bond since a jury found him guilty in late December 2018, chose not to speak when given that opportunity prior to his sentencing. 

Public defender Chad Catalino escorted his client from the courtroom, accompanied by a Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

The victim is a 97-year-old Fruitport-area woman who asked not to be identified. She sat quietly during the hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Stinedurf read the victim’s impact statement. 

The victim said she was a businesswoman and trusted her own decision-making prior to meeting Haynes at an investment program offered to senior citizens. She lived alone at the time and said Haynes became a friend, as well as a money manager for her. She said the man she called “Duke” helped her pay her bills, was supposed to be investing her money and he often helped her with chores around the house.

“I blame myself for trusting Duke so much,” Stinedurf read from the statement. “I thought … that he was my friend.”

The victim said she and her husband saved to make sure that she was properly cared for after her husband died in 2001. Now she said she lives on Social Security and struggles to pay her bills every month. 

Catalino fought for his client prior to sentencing, trying to get the guidelines reduced by challenging some statements in the pre-sentence report.

“Age does not automatically equate with victim vulnerability,” Catalino said, and he questioned psychological injury to the victim.

Smedley ruled against Catalino’s request, noting that seeing a counselor is not required and that Haynes’ actions were predatory. 

The victim “wasn’t the first person he met through this,” the judge said when talking about the investment programs designed to introduce Haynes to potential clients.

Catalino accused the assistant attorney general of inflaming emotions during the trial by parading “a bunch of old women through here.” He also noted that Haynes was working and doing his best to pay back some of his debts.

“The government is not interested in getting this person whole,” the attorney said.

“The emotions do not become involved in my sentencing,” Smedley responded.

She then told Haynes: “The jury has spoken. You are guilty of all of these crimes.”

Because a jury convicted him, Haynes has an automatic right of appeal, the judge added.

After the sentencing, the victim said, “As long as justice has been done, I’m satisfied. No matter who you are, you shouldn’t be taken advantage of,” she added. 

Background

Haynes was charged in May 2018 as part of the state attorney general’s Elder Financial Crimes Unit. He was prosecuted by the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office.

The victim in the case paid a fee to attend a financial planning seminar led by Haynes in 2006. She asked Haynes to help her pay her bills with computerized billing systems.

The 85-year-old woman was recently widowed and has no children. She gave Haynes access to her computer, financial accounts and passwords.

Haynes acted as the woman's agent for 10 years and he used their relationship to influence her financial decisions and to take her money for his advantage. He was found guilty of using the woman's money for his company, Senior Planning Resource and Future.

The victim also says she gave money to Haynes to invest, but that is not what he did with it. Over the course of four years, Haynes transferred more than $300,000 from the woman's accounts to bank accounts that belong to his two companies. The attorney general's office also says that Haynes' tax returns did not accurately reflect the amount he stole.

In 2016, the woman became suspicious about the money she asked Haynes to invest and asked him about it. The information was then reported to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which referred the case to the attorney general.

WZZM-TV contributed to this report

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