What You Need to Know
- The former LPL broker allegedly misappropriated about $2.9 million from multiple clients.
- He was terminated from LPL in June 2020 and barred from the industry by FINRA in October 2020.
- The DOJ and SEC filed parallel actions against him in Massachusetts late last month.
A former LPL Financial broker pleaded guilty on Friday to three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft after he allegedly misappropriated about $2.9 million from his clients, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Justice Department and court documents.
As part of a plea agreement, James K. Couture, 42, of Sutton, Massachusetts will be incarcerated for a total of not less than 66 months and not more than 91 months.
He also agreed to 36 months of supervised release, restitution of at least $1.92 million or as determined by the court, a mandatory special assessment of $400 to be paid to the clerk of the court by the date of sentencing, an unspecified fine, and forfeiture of $2.87 million that will be returned to his victims.
Couture was a broker for LPL from 2009-2020, according to his report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website. He first became a registered broker in 2001, when he became a representative for Morgan Stanley, where he stayed for just one year. He then became a rep for New England Securities and Lincoln Financial Securities, each for three years, before joining LPL.
Couture also founded his own firm, The Private Wealth Management Group, in 2010, with offices in Springfield and Worcester, Massachusetts to provide investment advisory services and sell insurance products.
LPL terminated Couture on June 17, 2020, after he allegedly altered identifying information, account balances and distributions in a customer account statement, “maintained comingled customer funds” and used an unapproved email address, according to a disclosure on his report.
LPL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Without admitting or denying FINRA’s findings, Couture signed a FINRA letter of acceptance, waiver and consent on Oct. 16, 2020, in which he agreed to be barred from associating with any FINRA member in any capacity. FINRA signed the letter on Oct. 21, 2020. He is no longer a registered broker or advisor, according to BrokerCheck.
The Justice Department filed criminal charges against Couture on June 1 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
In its action, DOJ pointed out that Couture also started a firm called Legacy Financial Group in New Hampshire in or about September 2009 and operated a third-party administrator of retirement plans that managed the retirement plan of a law firm based in Worcester.