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Press Release

Albuquerque Investment Broker Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Mail and Wire Fraud and Failure to File Tax Returns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Albert A. Childress, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, announced today that Richard Kessler was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment for the fraud charges and 12 months for the tax charges, to run concurrently. Kessler, 52, of Albuquerque, pleaded guilty on April 18, 2022, to one count each of mail fraud and wire fraud and four counts of failure to file tax returns.

According to court documents, Kessler was self-employed as a financial advisor and investment broker doing business as Guardian Group Investments LLC. In that capacity, Kessler earned commissions by managing retirement accounts for small businesses. Those businesses included an oil and gas company in Farmington, New Mexico. Kessler occasionally made presentations to employees of that business regarding retirement planning and financial investments. He used those interactions—and the private conversations that followed—to convince several of that business’s workers to take funds out of their established retirement accounts and entrust their retirement funds to him. Between 2013 to 2016, several investors entrusted Kessler with retirement funds totaling more than $161,000. Kessler represented to those investors that he would place their retirement funds in qualified investment accounts. Instead, Kessler deposited investors’ retirement funds into his company’s business savings account. From there, Kessler converted and expended those funds through transfers to personal bank account, cashier’s checks that he would use for personal expenses, and cash withdrawals. Kessler also used a portion of investors’ retirement funds to make payments to earlier investors to replace funds that he had previously misappropriated.

In addition to defrauding investors and converting their retirement funds his personal purpose and to perpetuate his Ponzi scheme, Kessler also failed to file federal tax returns or pay federal income tax for tax years 2014 through 2017. During that time period, Kessler earned commissions from legitimate investment management, as well as the illicit income from his frauds. Kessler’s income over these four years—legitimate and illegitimate—came to $446,925. This resulted in a tax liability of $82,627. Kessler knew he was required to pay taxes on his income from his company, having done it from the company’s inception in 2008 through 2011.

In his plea agreement, Kessler admitted that he devised and executed this scheme with the intent to defraud the investors.

Upon his release from prison, Kessler will be subject to 3 years of supervised release with the special condition that he make full restitution to the victims of his fraudulent scheme and pay the income taxes owed to the United States. At the time of his sentencing, Kessler had prepaid $82,500 of the $97,481.35 owed to his victims.  

Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy S. Vasquez is prosecuting the case.  

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Updated December 21, 2023

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 23-294