Former Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Arrested in Embezzlement Scheme
TALLAHASSEE, FL B Today James Ryan Lanier, 33, was arrested in San Diego, California on fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges relating to the embezzlement of more than $800,000 in funds from Merrill Lynch clients.
The 65-count indictment alleges that between 2008 and 2010, while working as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, Lanier transmitted fraudulent letters of authorization bearing forged client signatures to Merrill Lynch client associates who were responsible for processing wire transfers of client funds. The letters contained false and misleading statements designed to induce the client associates to wire transfer funds from client investment accounts to bank accounts held and controlled by Lanier. According to the indictment, Lanier purposely sought assistance from client associates who were unfamiliar with Lanier’s clients. In directing the transfers of these funds, Lanier falsely claimed that he had obtained voice approval from Merrill Lynch clients on a recorded telephone line. As alleged in the indictment, Lanier used the embezzled client funds to make loan payments, and to purchase vehicles and a condominium in Albany, Georgia, as well as an interest in a cellular telecommunications business.
If convicted, Lanier faces maximum sentences of thirty years in prison on each count of wire and mail fraud, and a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for money laundering. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, Lanier faces a separate mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence.
Lanier will be formally arraigned at an initial appearance currently set for August 16, 2012, at 1:30 p.m., before United States Magistrate Judge Charles A. Stampelos in Tallahassee.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Coody.
An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.