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Advisor Charged With Murder in Colombia Faces Fallout

Financial advisor John Poulos was fired from Vanguard and stripped of his CFP designation after being arrested for a homicide near Bogota, Colombia. He was caught in Panama on his way to Turkey, according to reports.

John Poulos, a former financial advisor based in Milwaukee, was arrested and charged with murdering his girlfriend, a popular DJ, in Bogota, Colombia, earlier this month. In the wake of the charges, he was fired from his latest job with Vanguard Advisors and stripped of his Certified Financial Planner designation. 

Colombian authorities claimed Poulos strangled his girlfriend, Valentina Trespalacios, then stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped it in a trash can near El Dorado International Airport in Bogota on Jan. 22, according to a report by USA Today. The couple had purportedly met online and were dating for about 10 months.

According to published reports, prosecutors claim Poulos flew to Colombia on Jan. 19 and rented a place with Trespalacios, and the two were planning on getting married. Her body was later discovered in the trash can, authorities determining she had been beaten and strangled to death, according to reports. 

In video footage shown in court, Poulos was seen leaving the couple’s apartment the morning of the murder with a large suitcase and had difficulty lifting it into the trunk of a rental car. Street camera footage later showed a man believed to be Poulos removing something from a car and putting it in the trash can where Trespalacios’ body was later found, according to published reports.

The same car was later seen arriving at the airport, according to USA Today. Poulos was arrested after flying to Panama. Colombian prosecutors said he was heading to Istanbul, before planning to fly to Montenegro in the Balkans.

Poulos, who was a financial advisor for over a decade, previously lived in Milwaukee. He left his wife and children there in 2021, according to Ashley Poulos, who filed for divorce from her husband, describing the relationship as “abusive,” according to a statement she gave to The City Paper Bogota. She said that shortly before their divorce, Poulos had transferred their entire estate to an offshore trust, “leaving the family with nothing.” He has not seen his children since 2021, she wrote.

“John has represented himself as a ‘sovereign citizen’ throughout the divorce process incurring no legal fees himself but causing me to incur thousands of dollars in attorney and guardian ad litem fees,” she said, adding that he’s refused to pay child support, leading a judge to order a bench warrant for his arrest. In the letter, she said she was “deeply saddened” for Trespalacios’ family.

In Colombia, he is charged with "femicide," a legally defined crime in Colombia meant to heighten punishment of men who target and harm women. 

Poulos' financial services career began in 2009, as a FINRA-registered rep with Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, based out of Milwaukee and then Franklin, Wisc., according to his BrokerCheck profile. In April 2022, he joined Vanguard, before he was fired in late January after being charged with Trespalacios’ murder, according to his IAPD report.

The CFP Board announced this week that it had suspended Poulos on Jan. 27, a day after his arrest. The Board deemed that Poulos’ conduct posed “a significant threat to the public or that his conduct significantly impinges upon the reputation of the profession and upon the CFP certification marks,” according to the Board. This means Poulos cannot use the certification for as long as the suspension holds.

Poulos denies any involvement in the killing and is facing about 50 years in a Colombian prison if found guilty, according to published reports.

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