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2 women sentenced in annuities scheme

Two women will spend time behind bars for a scheme in which one sold annuities to elderly clients and the other was named the beneficiary. The scheme netted the two $393,440 before they were caught.

Cynthia Bulinski, also known as Cynthia Gibbons, 48, of Annapolis, Md., and Kellie Will, 47, of Centreville, Va., were sentenced Wednesday by Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case.

Bulinski was sentenced to one to three years in state prison. She pleaded guilty last December to three counts of attempted grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud.

Will was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years' probation. She pleaded guilty to a single count of scheme to defraud.

At one time, the two had worked together at an East Aurora bank, said authorities, who declined to identify the bank. They left the area before they were charged last year.

According to District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, Bulinski admitted that while working as an investment adviser, she defrauded several of her elderly clients by selling them variable rate annuities and then, without their knowledge, naming Will as the beneficiary.

There were nine victims; three have died, and the others have changed their beneficiaries.

Bulinski would get to know her clients -- learning whether they had families and whom they designated as beneficiaries, said Detective Richard Daminski of the East Aurora Police Department. When a client died, Bulinski would have Will obtain a death certificate and collect the money, which they split.

"It was quite the scam," Daminski said.

The scheme came to light last summer, after a client died and someone started asking about Will, who was named as the beneficiary, Daminski said. It turned out there were surviving relatives.

If a client happened to notice that Will was listed as a beneficiary, Bulinski would dismiss it as an error and make the correction, the detective said.

As a condition of their pleas, the women agreed to pay full restitution to their victims, the district attorney said. In cases of clients who died, restitution was made to their estates.

While authorities are aware of nine victims, Daminski suspects there were many more -- namely, victims who died before the scam was exposed.

"I still think there's a lot more out there," the detective said.