Marina del Rey insurance agents allegedly picked a senior clean

By Gary Walker

Brittany Sias and Clement Chichester face multiple fraud charges
California Dept. of Insurance Photos

A Marina del Rey couple is facing 28 felony charges in what state insurance authorities say was a scheme to bilk an elderly client out of over $1 million in cash and property.

Clement Ignatius Lancelot Chichester, 68, and wife Brittany Jade Sias, 56 — both licensed insurance agents — allegedly sold unnecessary annuities to a 91-year-old former public school teacher in order to cash in on large commissions, then convinced her to liquidate the policies so they could fund their own real estate investments.

Both were arrested on Feb. 8 at their Marina del Rey condo by detectives from the California Department of Insurance, which has revoked their licenses.

Department spokeswoman Nancy Kinkaid says investigators believe there are very likely other local victims among the couple’s past clients.

Both Chichester and Sias have been charged with one count of theft from an elder, one count of forgery for public record and two counts of forgery by passing a forged document. Chichester has been charged with an additional 22 felonies, including multiple counts of making untrue statements or omission of material facts in sale of securities and two counts of passing non-sufficient funds checks exceeding $950.

Investigators say Chichester sold the victim’s $1 million Culver City rental property in a fraudulent 2014 transaction that only netted her $68,800, according to the 28-page criminal complaint. He also allegedly convinced her to file public documents ceding ownership rights to him.

Chichester then allegedly wrote bad checks to pay for the interest on the mortgage and a loan provided by the victim, said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Sharon Ransom, who is prosecuting the case under the office’s elder abuse section.

State investigators believe some of the funds used to purchase the Culver City property were from another victim.

“Chichester and Sias allegedly used their victim’s financial resources to live the high life,” said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Crimes against vulnerable seniors are reprehensible. We are focused on aggressively investigating alleged financial crimes against seniors and working with prosecutors to bring those responsible to justice.”

Chichester is being held in lieu of $1.45 million bail and Sias’ bail is set at $450,000. State insurance authorities have filed a bail hold that requires them to prove their bail money does not come from ill-gotten gains.

If convicted, Chichester could face up to 35 years and four months in prison, and Sias could get nine years and four months. Both were scheduled to be arraigned in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 21.

Chichester had worked for five different financial firms since 2005, including the Santa Monica offices of Primevest Financial Services (2007 to 2010) and U.S. Bancorp (2010 and 2011). In October he and Sias were working with Western Financial Securities before the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency barred them from associating with member firms following an investigation into funds they had received from a client.

State insurance authorities are asking anyone who was a client or know clients of Chichester and Sias to call investigators at (661) 253-7500.