San Diego, CA – The family of a slain San Diego police officer was devastated to learn that the financial advisor entrusted to invest the fallen hero’s life insurance for the benefit of his parents had stolen all of the money.
San Diego Police Officer Jeremy Henwood was murdered in the line of duty on Aug. 6, 2011 when he was ambushed while stopped in his patrol vehicle at a traffic light, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP).
The gunman had already fled police that day when he pulled up next to Officer Henwood at a traffic light and opened fire on him with a shotgun.
Officer Henwood was shot in the face, KGTV reported.
Bystanders used the wounded hero’s radio to notify police of the shooting and Officer Henwood was rushed to Scripps Mercy Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds the next morning, according to ODMP.
Officer Henwood’s murderer was killed in a shootout with police officers, KGTV reported.
After the hero was killed, video surfaced that showed Officer Henwood buying a neighborhood child a cookie inside a McDonald’s just moments before he was murdered in the line of duty.
Today we pause to remember the life of Officer Jeremy Henwood.
End of Watch August 07th, 2011. pic.twitter.com/ftwhNl6OYz
— San Diego Police Department (@SanDiegoPD) August 7, 2020
The fallen officer left his police department and U.S. Marine Corps life insurance policy proceeds to his parents and they turned them over to close family friend Chris Pettit, a financial advisor, for investing, according to a GoFundMe set up by the fallen officer’s sister, Emily Henwood.
Officer Henwood’s mother died earlier this year and when dealing with his father’s finances in May, Emily Henwood said the family discovered that their parents’ entire estate was missing, including the insurance money.
“His life insurance for his Marine service of almost 20 years, and his cop service for 4 years, was over $700,000,” she wrote. “My Mom’s insurance was over $300,000.”
“My parent’s life savings was well over $1,000,000 on top of this,” Emily Henwood continued. “They were dedicated doctors for over 30 years in San Antonio. Chris Pettit and his associates stole all of this money.”
Emily Henwood said the situation for Officer Henwood’s father was desperate and that he needed help to be able to stay in his home.
Robbie Henwood said he’d heard noises that Pettit’s clients would be lucky to get back pennies on the dollar for the money they invested with him, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
“Start selling my house, my clothes, my car?” he asked. “Move on to the street? That’s what he’s done to more than just me.”
Pettit had been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) and co-authored a book with another attorney in his firm – David Balmer – entitled “Total Wealth Management” that listed the organization as its publisher, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
Although Pettit had been a member of AAEPS, he failed to meet the organizations continuing legal education requirements and was ousted in 2020.
Balmer, who is not a financial planner, said the academy pushed attorneys to get “cross-licensed” to provide financial planning services and that before that, Pettit’s firm just referred clients to outside financial planners, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
“There was none of that in-house stuff,” he explained. “I think that’s where the troubles come in with Chris and any lawyers that might be in that area, when they start thinking, ‘I’ll just do everything for them. I’ll be their financial guy.’”
Pettit earned a Series 65 securities license in 2015 and affiliated with the Austin office of Triad Advisors, a brokerage and investment firm based in Georgia, in 2020, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
But then he began suggesting his clients let him invest their money in municipal bonds and other investments, some of which didn’t actually exist and claimed they would earn a 8.85 to 9.13 percent return on their investment, predictions that were way too high for the investments being made.
Pettit also claimed to have put some clients’ money into a money market account that paid 5.43 percent at a time when money market accounts weren’t even paying half that interest rate, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
He had assured all his clients that their investments were “insured up to $10,000,000 through our errors and omissions coverage,” which Robbie Henwood said he understood meant he would get his principal back if everything tanked.
But the insurance only actually covered negligence and mistakes, not losses due to bad investments or losses that result from criminal acts, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
“Some of the stories of betrayal that I’ve heard are really — they’re difficult to hear,” attorney Raymond Battaglia told Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Gargotta at a June 8 hearing in San Antonio where Pettit’s business was based.
Battaglia pointed out during the hearing that Pettit’s bankruptcy schedules still list him as holding or controlling the assets for a combination of 52 different individuals, partnerships, trusts, and estates, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
However, Pettit couldn’t describe the assets, their location, or their value to the judge.
“I think [that’s] a clear red flag that all 52 of those accounts are diminished, if not stolen,” Battaglia said.
Robbie Henwood said he never got statements that told him where his investments were, the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
He said he got annual statements that listed the investments, the amounts, and the interest they had earned but no details about the actual accounts.
Pettit’s bankruptcy lawyer told the judge that his client had “medically-related issues” and was considering getting treatment at “in-care facilities,” the San Diego Daily Tribune reported.
But none of that will solve the dire money shortage for Officer Henwood’s father.
The First Responder Whiskey Society held a fundraiser to help the fallen hero’s father, KSWB reported.
“I want people to know we haven’t moved on, we’re there with them,” Nick Nguyen of the First Responder Whiskey Society, said.
The First Responder Whiskey Society created a special whiskey bottle and challenge coin in Officer Henwood’s honor and sold them to benefit the fallen hero’s father, KSWB reported.
“It’s been almost 11 years since Jeremy was killed, but here we are again in a horrible situation and everyone’s stepping up, especially San Diego in a big way and helping us out, which is really, really amazing,” Emily Henwood said.
Pettit remains under investigation by the FBI and IRS.