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Press Release

Clive Insurance Salesperson Sentenced to 19 Years for Fraud and Contempt

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Iowa

A Clive man was sentenced on June 12, 2024, to 18.5 years in federal prison for wire fraud and an additional six months for criminal contempt of court. He also was ordered to pay over $2.4 million in restitution to the victims of his fraud.

According to public court documents and evidence presented at sentencing, Zachary James Flaherty, 48, conducted a vast fraud over the course of seventeen years. From 2006 to 2023, Flaherty defrauded over thirty individuals out of all or portions of their retirement savings and other monies—in all, Flaherty’s victims lost over $3 million. Flaherty’s victims were from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska; nearly all the victims were elderly, with the oldest being ninety-three years old at the time of the fraud. Most of the victims had limited financial knowledge.

Flaherty developed close relationships with his victims—he took them out to eat, bought them gifts, and helped with chores around their house. At least six of Flaherty’s victims were recently widowed when he exploited them, and Flaherty assisted with funeral arrangements or related matters for multiple victims’ spouses.

To gain access to his victims’ monies, Flaherty lied to his victims about numerous matters, including information about the returns and bonuses they could receive by investing with him, their ability to make penalty-free withdrawals of their funds, and the losses they could incur. Once his victims had “invested” with him, he continued to misrepresent and conceal information about the returns the victims were earning, the amount of money victims had invested, and the costs and penalties associated with the investments.

Flaherty primarily used two approaches to defraud his victims. His first approach was to encourage his victims to write checks to him or one of his businesses and promise his victims that he would invest the funds on their behalf. Victims trusted Flaherty’s statements and wrote him numerous checks. But Flaherty did not invest the funds on his victims’ behalf as he had stated; instead, he spent the money on himself, his family, and his businesses.

Flaherty’s second approach was to invest his victims’ funds into annuities. Flaherty was licensed to sell annuities in multiple states, and by purchasing annuities for his clients, Flaherty received over $1 million in commission payments from insurance companies. To obtain annuities on his victims’ behalf, however, Flaherty submitted documents to insurance companies which contained false misrepresentations, including forged signatures for his victims.

Flaherty’s elderly victims were not financially situated to invest in annuities. Annuities are long-term investments which typically take years to fully vest. If the owner of the annuity withdraws or cancels the annuity before it vests, then the owner usually must pay penalties, taxes, and other fees. Flaherty misrepresented the extent of the penalties, taxes, and fees his victims would suffer by investing with him, and he repeatedly encouraged his victims to withdraw funds and cancel annuities. Taking Flaherty at his word, his victims withdrew money and cancelled annuities, resulting in victims suffering massive amounts of losses.

Numerous victims spoke at sentencing about how Flaherty’s actions had betrayed their trust in him, shattered their faith in other people, and left them with limited financial resources. Several victims lost nearly all their life savings; others can no longer afford medical or assisted-living care. Victims also reported suffering health problems as a result of the increased anxiety and stress caused by Flaherty’s crimes.

Flaherty’s conviction for criminal contempt of court resulted from his violations of court orders issued in February 2024. Those orders prohibited Flaherty from selling or dissipating his personal property, which could be used to pay some of the money back to victims. Yet, Flaherty sold and attempted to sell and conceal several assets in March and April 2024, including guitars. Evidence at sentencing established that since being charged with federal crimes in April 2023, Flaherty repeatedly violated court orders applicable to him.

“Elder financial fraud causes devastating losses to its victims. Zachary Flaherty’s actions targeting the retirement savings and fixed incomes these victims spent a lifetime earning were an unprecedented betrayal of the trust they placed in him. The severity of Flaherty’s 228 months’ sentence, and $2.4 million in restitution, only partially compensates for the deep financial harm caused by his conduct. The heartbreaking impact of this type of crime can leave victims fearful for the future and wondering who to trust. Some helpful keys to combat these crimes are accountability and awareness,” said United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal for the Southern District of Iowa. 

United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal of the Southern District of Iowa made the announcement. The Iowa Insurance Division’s Fraud Bureau and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated this case, with assistance from the Ankeny Police Department, the Clive Police Department, the Des Moines Police Department, and the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation.

To report elder fraud, contact the dedicated National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 or 1-833-372-8311 and visit the FBI’s IC3 Elder Fraud Complaint Center at To learn more about the Department of Justice elder justice efforts please visit the Elder Justice Initiative page:


Contact:  MacKenzie Tubbs

Public Information Officer

Updated June 14, 2024

Financial Fraud