Acton Investment Advisor Pleads Guilty to Stealing More than $3.7 Million of Clients’ Funds
BOSTON – An Acton man pleaded guilty today in connection with a long-running scheme to steal money from clients of his investment advisor business, in which he fraudulently obtained more than $3.7 million from more than 20 clients.
Gerald Allan Eaton, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Jan. 26, 2021.
Eaton was a certified financial planner, doing business under the name Heritage Financial Group, with an office in Acton. 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. He did so primarily by selling securities, insurance policies and annuities in clients’ accounts, and causing the proceeds to be sent to accounts he owned or controlled.
As part of his scheme, Eaton forged clients’ signatures on checks and documents, or caused clients to sign documents by falsely representing that the proceeds of transactions would be used for the clients’ benefit. Eaton also falsely represented to the brokerage firm with which he was affiliated, and to insurance companies, that the transactions he requested on his clients’ behalf were for the benefit of those clients. In fact, Eaton caused proceeds to be sent to his own credit card accounts to pay his personal and family expenses, and to his home equity line of credit. In order to avoid detection, Eaton defrauded clients he knew were unlikely to notice what he had done, either because they were elderly or in poor mental or physical condition.
The charges of mail and wire fraud provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain/loss, whichever is greater. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed, one year of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
In a parallel action, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) entered an order barring Eaton from the securities industry based on the same conduct.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service made the announcement today. Assistant U. S. Attorney Jordi de Llano, Deputy Chief of Lelling’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit, prosecuted the case.