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Ex-Cambridge Rep Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Stealing $472K From Clients

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What You Need to Know

  • The ex-Cambridge rep was convicted of stealing from 24 investors he recruited into an unregulated commodities trading group.
  • The funds were spent to pay credit card debt, household utility bills and a mortgage.
  • The ex-broker has been acting as an unregistered advisor since leaving Cambridge in April 2009.

A former Cambridge Investment Research broker has been sentenced to three years in New Jersey state prison for stealing $471,602 from 24 investors he recruited to invest in his unregulated commodities trading group, Think Big Institute, Andrew J. Bruck, acting New Jersey attorney general, announced Thursday.

Scott Nicholson, 54, of North Haledon, New Jersey, was sentenced Thursday by Passaic County Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed. In addition to the prison sentence, he is required to make full restitution and consent to the dissolution of Think Big, according to Bruck.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by unlawful taking in September after being charged in April with stealing $644,000 from the 24 clients, according to Bruck and last year’s criminal complaint.

Cambridge and Alan G. Peyrouton of Peyrouton Law in Hackensack, New Jersey, who represented Nicholson, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Funds Used to Pay Credit Cards and More

From 2008 through 2017, Nicholson recruited the 24 investors in Think Big, according to Bruck and court documents. Nicholson acted as an unregistered investment advisor solely responsible for investment decisions in Think Big.

Think Big incurred significant losses, due in part to failed investments, according to Bruck and court documents. At about that time, Nicholson started to misappropriate investor funds by withdrawing existing investment monies and new investments in Think Big for his personal benefit.

Funds used for his personal use were spent on payments that included credit card debt, household utility bills and a mortgage, according to an April 2021 summary denial and cease and desist order by the State of New Jersey Bureau of Securities.

“In January 2018, Nicholson finally admitted to the Think Big investors that their money was gone and their investment was worthless,” that order said. “On March 13, 2018, Nicholson signed a promissory note agreeing to pay restitution in the amount of $471,601.05 to the twenty-five investors within 36 months,” it added. But, as of April 2021, he only paid about $12,000, it said.

He hid the substantial investment losses by Think Big via the creation of fraudulent investment statements showing false positive returns, according to Bruck and court documents.

The $471,602 lost by the investors represented the amount of their principal investments less dividends they received.

Nicholson was initially investigated by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, which referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau for criminal investigation, Bruck said Thursday.

In April 2021, the Bureau of Securities found that Nicholson and Think Big operated a fraud against investors and issued a cease and desist order against them to prevent further violations of the New Jersey Uniform Securities Law.

Nicholson was a registered representative with Cambridge from January 2007 until April 2009, according to his report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website. There were no disclosures on his report until April 2021.

No reason was cited on the report for why he left the firm. He is no longer a registered broker or advisor, according to BrokerCheck.

Prior to Cambridge, Nicholson was a registered rep for firms including Commonwealth Financial Network (September 2002-December 2006) and UBS PaineWebber (December 1999-October 2002) during his 12 years as a registered broker, according to BrokerCheck.