New Jersey-based Financial Advisor Pleads Guilty, Admits Defrauding Elderly Investors
Judge Orders Forfeiture of Nearly $700,000 Scammed from Victims
TRENTON, N.J. – A Somerset County, N.J.-based financial advisor pleaded guilty today to stealing $138,000 from two elderly investors and funding his lavish lifestyle with money he claimed to be investing in conservative securities and his business, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ralph A. Saviano, 72, of Bridgewater, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with wire fraud. Saviano surrendered himself to the FBI this morning before the plea hearing.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Saviano, an investment advisor who had worked in the financial industry for more than 40 years, targeted clients through his association with Centaurus Financial, Inc., and later through Saviano Financial Group (SFG), from as early as July 2007 through October 2012.
During this time, Saviano had approximately 300 clients, many of whom were unsophisticated investors between the ages of 60 and 85, whom he had known for many years and who trusted his financial experience and advice. Saviano admitted he targeted clients he knew were about to receive significant amounts of cash, such as maturing certificates of deposit (CDs), and proposed that they invest those funds in low-risk investments or in his business, SFG. Saviano said he would use these “business loans” solely for business expenses.
At the plea hearing, Judge Wolfson entered a consent judgment and order of forfeiture in the amount of $699,926.51, which constitutes the proceeds Saviano obtained from his known investor victims as a result of his offense.
Specifically, Saviano admitted that in May 2012, an 85-year-old client gave him approximately $63,000 from a mature CD that she was told would be invested in two investment funds. Saviano accompanied the client to her bank to redeem the CD and instructed her make the proceeds from the CD payable to him.
Also, in June 2012, another of Saviano’s clients – 80 years old and suffering from cancer – gave Saviano approximately $75,000 she inherited from a recently deceased relative, making the check out to cash with the words “financial investment” in the memo field.
Saviano admitted that, to date, has not returned to either woman any of the principals of their investments; nor have they received any interest payments on those funds. Instead of doing as he claimed, Saviano used the funds to repay prior “loans” from other clients in Ponzi-scheme fashion, and to pay for various personal expenses, including: at least $33,000 for granite countertops and other home improvements, $18,000 in cash payments to himself and family members, $10,000 in personal mortgage and rent payments, and thousands more in jewelry, clothing, a family vacation to Aruba and a theater donation.
The wire fraud count to which Saviano pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross amount of pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11, 2013.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Aaron T. Ford in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s New York office for its assistance with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Mendelsohn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Evan Weitz of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.
If you believe you are a victim of or otherwise have information concerning this alleged scheme, you are encouraged to contact the FBI at 973-792-3000.
This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.
Defense counsel: Eric R. Breslin Esq., Newark, N.J