Worcester Investment Adviser Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Witness Tampering
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
BOSTON – A Worcester-based investment adviser pleaded guilty today in connection with a long-running scheme to steal more than $2.8 million from six clients.
James Kenneth Couture, 42, of Sutton, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of investment adviser fraud and one count of witness tampering. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton scheduled sentencing for Jan. 11, 2022.
Couture was a registered investment adviser, with an office in Worcester. In that capacity, he invested his clients’ funds in securities and various insurance products, including annuities, and set up and assisted clients with profit-sharing plans and other retirement products. From approximately 2009 to 2020, Couture misappropriated approximately $2.8 million from his clients by transferring funds out of his clients’ accounts, investing it in fictitious mutual funds and then selling other clients’ holdings to pay investment returns. In June 2016, Couture liquidated one client’s variable annuities to fund withdrawals by another client. Similarly, in December 2019 and January 2020, Couture paid a client he had previously defrauded by selling other clients’ mutual funds. As part of this scheme, Couture forged clients’ signatures on documents, or caused clients to sign documents by falsely representing that the proceeds of transactions would be used for the clients’ benefit. Couture also stole from clients using their own profit-sharing plans and conducting transactions in their names to disguise his fraudulent transactions.
Couture was initially charged in connection with this scheme in June 2021. After those initial charges were filed, Couture engaged in witness tampering by creating fake documents purported to be for his clients’ accounts and providing false information to at least one victim in the case for approximately six months. Couture was subsequently charged with witness tampering in connection with his efforts to deceive this victim on Jan. 14, 2022.
The charges of wire fraud each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charges of aggravated identity theft each provide for a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison. The charge of investment adviser fraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of witness tampering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael Rollins, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division and Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston made the announcement today. The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor provided valuable assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kriss Basil of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
Updated October 4, 2022