Crooked ex-broker says she was driven by greed

Crooked ex-broker says she was driven by greed »Play Video
Rhonda Breard (April 2010 file photo)
SEATTLE - A Kirkland investment broker who bilked her clients out of millions of dollars says she was driven by greed and wanted to appear rich and successful.

KOMO News has obtained a letter written by the broker, Rhonda Breard, to the judge and her former clients explaining what happened.

But her victims say the explanation and apology is too little, too late.

"If she was really sorry, she would go make it right," says one of Breard's former clients, Gordon Overbye.

Breard stole $850,000 of Overbye's money. He says Breard's apology is just empty words - and her reason for taking it - so she could appear to be rich -is even emptier.

"Oh, it's sad you want to be like rich people," he says. "Last time I heard I didn't hear any claim that rich people were happier than anybody else."

Schoolteacher Sandee Gren agrees with Gordon.

"That's sad, really sad. ... I'd like to talk to her face to face, I want her to see me and tell me why she did this to me knowing that I was financially broken, divorced and was grieving over my daughter's death," Gren says. "I was trying to do the right thing financially."

Gren lost her life savings, too.

Investigators said dozens of people lost their life savings after investing with Breard, who allegedly spent their money to buy expensive homes, cars, jewelry, personal watercraft and snowmobiles. She has pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

"We know she entertained her girlfriends, flew them all down to Las Vegas, paid for airfare, clothing, nightclubs and who knows what else?" attorney Steve Berman said earlier.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Blackstone said Breard's scheme was straightforward. She used the money her clients gave her for personal expenses, then mailed them false account statements to conceal her actions. According to the Department of Financial Institutions, Breard's clients lost some $11 million in investments.

Her actions led one attorney to dub her a "mini-Madoff," after disgraced fiancier Bernard Madoff, who bilked his clients out of billions of dollars in a gigantic Ponzi scheme.

In a few days, Breard will be sentenced for her crimes.

In her letter to the judge who will sentence her, Breard admitted she was wrong, greedy and wanted to impress others.

She admits there is no excuse for her actions, but believes there are two reasons to give her a lighter sentence - she cooperated with investigators, and her kids need her. They're ages 20, 11 and 9.

Prosecutors will ask for an eight-year sentence. But at least one of Breard's victims said she won't be satisfied unless Breard gets 10 years - one year for every year she bilked her clients.

Attorney John Bender, who represents 4 of the 43 clients Breard stole from, says the longer the sentence, the better.

"She might say she's sorry, and it wasn't bad judgment," he says. "In my view it was criminal activity and she'll be punished for that."

When arrested Breard owned three heavily mortgaged multimillion-dollar homes and more than two dozen vehicles. Her assets have been seized.

According to court documents, the securities firm Breard used is negotiating settlements with all of her victims.

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• Read a copy of Breard's letter to the judge and her letter of apology to clients »