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Widow sues Carmel financial advisor for fraud claiming $1.3M missing or misappropriated

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Posted at 11:46 AM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 15:25:40-05

CARMEL — A Carmel financial adviser is facing accusations he lost or misappropriated $1.3 million of his client’s money.

Donna Wagner, a Hendricks County resident, filed a lawsuit December 2 in Hamilton Circuit Court against Brian Simms of Brendanwood Financial Brokerage and Brendanwood Financial Services.

Simms worked as the CEO of both Brendanwood entities, which is located at 11711 N. Meridian Street in Carmel, records show.

Donna Wagner relied on Brian Simms after the 2017 death of her husband, Michael Wagner, the lawsuit alleges.

“This is a tragic story of breach of trust,” read the lawsuit.

Simms assisted Donna Wagner in making death benefit claims on life insurance policies through North American Company for Life and Health Insurance and the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company.

Donna Wagner received death benefit proceeds, and Simms convinced the widow to invest the proceeds in additional insurance, annuities and investments, the lawsuit alleges.

Since Michael Wagner’s death, his wife wrote a total of 34 checks payable to Brendanwood Brokerage totaling $1 million and received deposits from Brendanwood Brokerage totaling $46,030 since her husband died, records show.

Brendanwood also received money from the Wagners’ prior to Michael’s death, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges in total $1,342,482 of Donna Wagner’s assets are missing, unaccounted for or lost and misappropriated by Simms and Brendanwood.

Simms made numerous misrepresentations to Donna Wagner so she would write numerous checks in “massive dollar amounts,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges fraud, negligence, breach of contract, and violations of the Indiana Securities Act.

The Indiana Secretary of State’s office would not confirm or deny they are investigating Simms or his businesses.

“It is just one of the most tragic clichés we’ve seen in the financial services world,” said Mark Maddox, attorney for Donna Wagner. “We had over a million dollars stolen, so it’s a big case.”

Maddox said Simms was good friends with Michael Wagner.

“It was taking advantage of your best friend’s widow which is the most offensive,” said Maddox.

Maddox served as the Securities Commissioner for the State of Indiana from 1989 to 1991.

Simms has not been criminally charged in this case.

He has not responded to an email from RTV6 asking for his side of the story.

Simms’ attorney Justin Walton issued a response to the lawsuit to RTV6.

“We deny allegations of wrongdoing and plan a vigorous defense should this matter move forward,” said Walton.

Brendanwood is still open and operating and conducting business, said Walton.

North American Company for Life and Health Insurance and Lincoln National Life Insurance Company are both named in the lawsuit as well, because Simms’ work furthered their business interests, the lawsuit said.

RTV6 has reached out to attorneys for both companies seeking comment on the lawsuit.

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