Accused senior scammer siphoned thousands from dead woman's bank account

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno money manager is accused of scamming seniors to help pay off his own massive debts.

The numbers just didn't add up. Thousands of dollars were leaving Alta Crawford's trust fund -- money the Kern County woman left behind for her children and grandchildren.

When state insurance investigators checked into it, they discovered more than $60,000 drained by Greg Steen, including several transfers to his business account and checks to Steen, his employees and his business -- like one for more than $3000.

"It was written in 2010 for 2009 administrative fees," said California Department of Insurance investigator Cindi Aseltine. "(Crawford) passed away in 2008, so my question was 'What was it for?'"

Digging deeper, investigators learned Steen was a money manager who mainly served seniors -- offering Medi-Cal planning, and asset protection, including the sales of annuities through a company called ELCO. But in 2008, the company terminated him after discovering he had more than $500,000 in tax debts to the IRS and others. Investigators say that didn't stop Steen. He kept signing up clients and used so-called "ghost writers" to get the company to approve the annuities. ELCO's vice president says he only noticed something was wrong when Steen's elderly father tried to sign up.

"I asked him if the clients he was going to write were his clients or those of his son, and he admitted he was attempting to help his son," said the vice president, Richard Leach.

Steen's attorney tells Action News the Crawford trust allowed him to charge the fees and to make loans with interest from the funds. Investigators questioned why he was still controlling it.

"I asked why the money had not been disbursed to the beneficiary," Asletine said. "He stated he had to hold the money because they - the beneficiaries -- were minors."

She said Steen was talking about Crawford's grandchildren, and Steen also said he couldn't locate her children.

As for the ghost writing, Steen's attorney says he believed it was legal. Three of the people accused of letting Steen use their licenses to ghost write annuities were also charged in this case. Charges against two of them were dismissed. Sara Vann admitted to one count of grand theft.

A judge will decide Thursday whether Steen should face trial on more than three dozen charges of grand theft, embezzlement and identity theft.

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