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Press Release

Lebanon Insurance Broker Sentenced to Over Seven Years in Federal Prison for Stealing Nearly $4 Million from Clients in “Ponzi” Scheme

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

INDIANAPOLIS- Brian Simms, 46, of Lebanon, has been sentenced to 90 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to wire fraud. 

According to court documents, between 2012 and 2020, Simms was a licensed insurance broker and registered agent at Brendanwood Brokerage.

Beginning in 2013, and continuing through August 4, 2021, Brian Simms defrauded at least twenty-two victims by promoting investment services to current Brendanwood insurance clients and others. During that period, neither Simms nor Brendanwood were registered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to provide financial advising services, or by the Indiana Securities Division or licensed to sell securities.

As part of his scheme, Simms advised victims to liquidate their traditional and long-term insurance investments, such as 401(k)-retirement savings accounts and life insurance policies. He encouraged the victims to reinvest the funds with him at Brendanwood. In exchange, Simms told victims he would invest their money on their behalf and yield higher rates of return than their current investments. He directed them to deposit those liquidated funds into their personal bank accounts and wire transfer or make checks payable to Brendanwood.

Instead of investing clients’ money as promised, Simms took it for his own personal benefit, such as paying Brendanwood’s payroll and other business expenses, and for his own personal expenditures including credit card payments, Amazon purchases, and other personal expenses.

Simms concealed the scheme through Ponzi-scheme type payments—using funds wrongfully taken from some investors to pay purported returns to others. He also falsified financial reports and made it appear that the victims’ funds were earning an increased rate of return and properly invested in traditional, legitimate investment products.

In total, Simms’ scheme caused 200 fraudulent deposits of client funds into Brendanwood’s accounts, totaling approximately $3,995,535.46 from at least twenty-two victim investors from Indiana, Ohio, and elsewhere. Simms stole significant portions of victims’ life savings, including six who lost over six-figure amounts, and two who lost over $1 million.

“This fraudster targeted those closest to him—friends, family, current customers, even widows and the elderly—folks relying on their savings to fund retirement, send kids to school, or simply live their lives with dignity,” said Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “He stole his victims’ financial security and damaged or derailed their plans for the future. Fraudsters and Ponzi-schemers cause tremendous harm to the public, and their crimes merit serious punishment like the federal sentence imposed against Mr. Simms. Working closely with our partners at the FBI and the Indiana Securities Division, our federal prosecutors will continue to seek accountability for financial crimes and justice for victims.”

‘“Simms’ sentence reflects the ongoing efforts of collaboration between law enforcement agencies to protect Hoosier investors.  The Securities Division will continue to work with our partner agencies to investigate these types of crime and ensure investment fraud is investigated and disrupted,” said Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales.

“The victims placed their trust in Mr. Simms with the expectation he would manage and invest their money for their future needs and not exploit that trust through lies and deceit,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton. “The FBI and our partners are committed to investigating these types of crimes to protect Hoosiers from swindlers such as the defendant.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Indiana Secretary of State investigated this case. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker. Judge Barker also ordered that Simms must pay $2,617,028.36 in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany J. Preston, who prosecuted this case.


Updated June 27, 2024

Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud