A former Commonwealth Financial rep pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing more than $3.7 million from more than 20 clients of his investment advisor business, Heritage Financial Group, according to Andrew E. Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Gerald Allan Eaton, 51, pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, as he agreed to earlier in the month as part of a plea agreement filed Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston.
“Commonwealth immediately terminated Gerald Eaton and contacted the US Attorney’s office after learning about his criminal activity,” the company said Monday by email, adding: “Commonwealth worked closely with the US Attorney’s office during its investigation and is pleased Mr. Eaton has been brought to justice.”
“Justice was served when Mr. Eaton admitted to his immoral and criminal behavior in court and pleaded guilty to the charges,” Commonwealth CEO Wayne Bloom said in a statement. “Commonwealth stands firm in its belief that financial advisors should be held to a high standard of trust, and will continually work to protect investor assets.”
Eaton was affiliated with the firm as an advisor from 1995 to 2019, according to his report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website. He was discharged from Commonwealth due to allegations of forgery and wrongful taking of property, according to a Oct. 28, 2019, disclosure on the report.
Without admitting or denying FINRA’s findings, Eaton signed a letter of acceptance, waiver and consent on Nov. 12, 2019, in which he agreed to be barred by FINRA for refusing to provide documents and information it requested as part of an investigation into his conduct, according to FINRA. The bar became effective Nov. 20.
U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Jan. 26, 2021, according to court documents.
Eaton was most recently a certified financial planner, running Heritage, a company with an office in Acton, Massachusetts. In that capacity, Eaton invested his clients’ funds in securities and various insurance products, including life insurance policies and annuities. From at least 1999 through October 2019, Eaton stole millions of dollars from clients’ accounts, Lelling alleged. Eaton did so mainly by selling securities, insurance policies and annuities in clients’ accounts, and causing the proceeds to be sent to accounts he owned or controlled, according to Lelling.