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Ex-Advisor Sentenced to Almost 22 Years in Prison Over Fake-Annuity Scam

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What You Need to Know

  • The ex-advisor sold investments to clients that he misrepresented as annuities and senior secured notes with no risk of loss and with a guaranteed rate of return.

A former registered broker and investment advisor has been sentenced to almost 22 years in prison after being convicted of stealing over $9.3 million from clients as part of an annuities-related Ponzi scheme, according to court documents and the Department of Justice.

After a trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Raymond A. Erker, 52, of Avon, Ohio, was sentenced Tuesday by Judge Dan Polster to 262 months in prison. A restitution hearing for Erker has been scheduled for Dec. 9.

From January 2013 through July 2018, Erker developed a scheme in which he stole $9.37 million from at least 54 investors, some of whom were older clients, according to court documents and evidence presented at trial.

As part of his scheme, Erker sold investments to clients that he misrepresented as annuities and senior secured notes with no risk of loss and with a guaranteed rate of return. Court documents state that Erker, without the approval or consent of his clients, diverted funds to other entities that he and his co-defendants controlled and their personal bank accounts.

Erker also failed to disclose to clients that he maintained ownership interests in companies receiving investments from his scheme.

In typical Ponzi style, to keep up with the rates of return promised, Erker falsely claimed that payments made to previous investors were rates of return and interest when the payments were actually new investor funds.

To avoid detection, Erker set up office fronts in Delaware and Nevada, contracted with call centers and created phony websites and account statements that purported to show investor account balances, according to the Justice Department.

Erker was also convicted of making a false statement under oath. On Oct. 9, 2019, while under oath in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Erker stated that he disclosed to investors that he owned the companies the investors gave him money to invest in, when in fact, Erker knew that statement was false.

Co-defendants Kevin M. Krantz and Tara M. Brunst were previously sentenced for their roles in the scheme.

CFP Board Suspension

In 2018, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards imposed an automatic interim suspension of Erker’s certified financial planner certification.

The board received evidence that Erker was convicted by a jury in Ohio of two felonies: burglary and menacing by stalking.

Pursuant to the CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures, “[a]n interim suspension shall immediately be issued without a hearing when CFP Board Counsel receives evidence of a … felony conviction for any crime,” it said at the time.

Also in 2018, the Ohio Division of Securities alleged that Erker had “not disclosed material changes and disclosable matters” on a CRD U4 form as required by Ohio securities law, according to his report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website.

That, the Ohio Division of Securities said, “shows a lack of good business repute and is grounds for suspension or revocation” of his Ohio investment advisor representative license. He was sanctioned with a revocation of his license.

Erker had been serving as president and owner of Raymond A. Erker Inc. from 2003 to 2022, according to his BrokerCheck report.

Firm Registrations

Erker had been registered as a broker and worked at firms including LPL Financial (2003-2010) and Merrill Lynch (2001-2003). He was dually registered for much of his time in the industry.

The last FINRA-registered firm he was affiliated with was Allstate Financial Services in 2012, according to his BrokerCheck report. He was then registered as an investment adviser with the RIA SageGuard Financial until its registration was revoked in 2019, according to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database.

Allstate and Bret Jordan, Erker’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Erker is no longer registered as a broker or advisor, according to BrokerCheck.

He ‘Misled, Cheated and Conned’

Erker “misled, cheated and conned over fifty victims, many of them elderly, into trusting him with their life savings and hard-earned retirement funds, all for guaranteed rates of return and low-risk investments that were fabricated,” according to Ohio First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler.

“Instead, Erker squandered the money he was entrusted with and caused financial ruin and pain for many,” she said in a statement. “Now, thanks to the work of law enforcement, Mr. Erker must repay his debt to these victims and our community.”