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Investor Protection

A Trusted Broker for 30+ Years Ended Up Stealing Client Blind

July 9, 2020

[Photo: Moneycrashers]


by Howard Haykin



In 1982, a retired airline pilot received a cold call from a Merrill Lynch broker and opened a brokerage account - and remained with "his broker" until his death in March 2018 (at age 98), moving his accounts whenever that broker signed up with a new brokerage firm. From 2013 until 2019, the broker was associated with Raymond James & Associates.
Over those (37) years, the broker inserted himself into the personal and financial affairs of his customer. And, in the customer’s later years, the broker frequently visited his befriended customer who, at the time, lived alone except for his full-time nursing care.



Unfortunately, the strong bond and trust between the two men belied the broker’s true criminal intents. In October 2015, the broker started misappropriating funds from the customer IRA account. He did so by forging wire transfer letters of authorization (“LOA”) to permit transfers from the customer’s account to the broker's own SunTrust Bank account. All told, the broker made 74 unauthorized transfers totaling $911,500 - in most cases selling securities in the customer's account and associating the customer's name with the bank account number.


After the customer's death, the executor for the customer’s estate frequently tried to get explanations for the numerous wire transfers. Finally, in May 2019, the broker confessed that he had stolen money from the customer’s account, along with money from another elderly customer.



INVESTOR TAKE AWAY.    A system of “checks and balances” is a critical underpinning for financial security – particularly among elderly investors who no longer can look out for themselves. Good and trustworthy brokers and investment advisers will openly welcome the addition of a competent, trusting and independent financial watchdog for customers and clients, young or old.



For the record, the fallen broker, 65, was last reported as working part-time in a retail establishment. One can only hope the customer's family will be compensated for its losses.



[For further details, click on … SEC Press Release and SEC Complaint.]