Former Comptroller Of Investment Adviser Firm Sentenced To 80 Months In Multimillion-Dollar Investment Fraud
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that VANIA MAY BELL, the former comptroller of Executive Compensation Planners, Inc. (“ECP”), a registered investment adviser and financial planning firm located in New City, New York, was sentenced to 80 months in prison for participating in a conspiracy with her father, HECTOR MAY, the former president of ECP, to defraud certain investment advisory clients (the “Victims”) out of more than $11 million. BELL was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Roman.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Over two decades, Bell and her father Hector May ruthlessly orchestrated a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. They pilfered the retirement savings of over 15 victims, including vulnerable aging couples, close friends, relatives, and an employment pension plan of a construction company. Bell now joins her father in prison to be held accountable for this devastating crime”
According to Count One of the Indictment, to which BELL pled guilty, and other statements and submissions made in Court:
Beginning in 1982, HECTOR MAY was the president of ECP and provided financial advisory services to numerous clients. In 1993, BELL joined ECP, where she held various titles including comptroller and chief compliance officer. ECP worked with a broker dealer (“Broker Dealer-1”), of which MAY became a registered representative in 1994.
In order to obtain money from the Victims’ securities accounts with Broker Dealer-1, MAY advised the Victims, among other things, that they should use money from those accounts to have ECP, rather than Broker Dealer-1, purchase bonds on their behalf. With BELL’s assistance, MAY guided the Victims, first, to withdraw their money from their Broker Dealer-1 accounts, and second, to send that money to the ECP Custodial Account by wire transfer or check. At times, when ECP was running out of cash and desperately needed to make supposed bond interest payments to avoid exposing the Ponzi scheme, BELL reached out to Victims directly. After the Victims sent their money to the ECP Custodial Account, MAY and BELL did not use the money to purchase bonds. Instead, BELL and MAY transferred the money to ECP’s “operating” account and spent it on business expenses, personal expenses, and to make payments to certain Victims in order to perpetuate the scheme and conceal the fraud. In this way, from the late 1990’s through March 9, 2018, BELL and MAY induced Victims to forward them more than $11,400,000.
To help perpetuate the fraud, BELL and MAY created phony “consolidated” account statements that they issued through ECP and sent to the Victims. These “consolidated” account statements purported to reflect the Victims’ total portfolio balances and included the names of bonds MAY falsely represented that he purchased for the Victims and the amounts of interest the Victims were supposedly earning on the bonds. In order to create the phony consolidated account statements, MAY provided BELL with bond names and false interest earnings, and BELL created ECP computerized account statements and had them distributed to the Victims. As part of the scheme, MAY personally drove to the home of a stroke victim he and BELL had been defrauding of millions of dollars in order to retrieve the legitimate statements being sent by Broker Dealer-1 and later replace them with BELL’s fake consolidated statements purporting to show the victim’s investments had been growing.
BELL was instrumental to the scheme in multiple ways. BELL processed and spent client money from ECP’s custodial and operating accounts, watching the money dwindling and helping her father achieve more thefts at many months’ ends; BELL faked account statements that made people believe that they held millions, even when she knew that their money was gone; and BELL wielded her role as Chief Compliance Officer and Comptroller to help conceal the fraud from Broker Dealer-1.
In an audio recording made in 2016, after more than sixteen years in the scheme, BELL said the following about MAY: “I am his daughter, I am his confidante, I am the backbone that saves his butt in every promise he makes out of there. . . . The virtue of my knowledge is just by the presence of time here. There is nothing in this office that I don’t know, haven’t touched, haven’t seen, haven’t done, haven’t taught. Everyone is always intimidated by the time I come in or the things I get to do personally that I’ve earned over time based on my life circumstances. It’s what we call the perk of being the boss’s daughter.” At the end of that year, MAY thanked BELL in a handwritten note: “My Dearest Vania: you have always been there for me. You always watch my back. I couldn’t do it without you[.] Love, Daddy”.
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In addition to her prison term, BELL, 57, of Montvale, New Jersey, was ordered to serve three years of supervised release, pay $8,041,233 in restitution, and forfeit $589,942.
MAY, who pled guilty in a separate case in December 2018 to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and investment advisor fraud, was sentenced on July 31, 2019, to 13 years in prison by Judge Vincent Briccetti. He was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, pay $8,041,233 in restitution and forfeit $11,452,185.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The criminal case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vladislav Vainberg, Margery Feinzig, and Derek Wikstrom are in charge of the prosecution.