The former Connecticut broker allegedly stole over $1 million from elderly clients
On August 31, Leon Vaccarelli and Lux Financial Services were charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with defrauding at least nine clients, several of which were elderly. According to the SEC, Vaccarelli told the clients that he would be investing their money in conventional brokerage accounts, but what he actually did was have them write checks payable to him. He reportedly then used that money to pay for personal expenses.
The SEC says that over a five-year period, Vaccarelli defrauded his clients of more than $1 million, with a large portion of that total coming from the sale of over $450,000 in securities that were in a trust intended for the care of a beneficiary.
In February of 2016, the SEC says that one client gave Vaccarelli an extra $100,000 to invest, with the broker guaranteeing a three percent return. But Vaccarelli allegedly never invested the money, actually using it to pay his mortgage.
At the end of last year, the client discovered that his IRA had a balance of below $500. When he went to Vaccarelli with his concerns, the broker said it was a misprint and he wrote “$90,476” on the statement, the SEC alleges. In reality, the $90,000 portion of that total didn’t exist.
In another instance, Vaccarelli allegedly took $300,000 from an 88-year-old client and, instead of investing the money like he told the woman’s daughter he did, he deposited it in an account he controlled. The SEC reports that he then used the funds to pay back other clients.
Vaccarelli’s former firm – The Investment Center, Inc., located in Waterbury, CT – denies having any knowledge of his actions. The Investment Center fired him in July for violating “company policy regarding access to his office and computer during an examination.” However, they may be liable for customer losses for failing to properly supervise Vaccarelli.
In its complaint against Vaccarelli, the SEC is seeking an asset freeze, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and a temporary restraining order.
This latest incident isn’t the first time Vaccarelli has been the subject of a financial agency’s investigation. In November of 2015, he was fined and suspended by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) when it was discovered that he exercised discretion in a customer account even though he didn’t have authorization. Vaccarelli also reportedly lied about discretionary retail customer accounts on several compliance questionnaires. FINRA’s BrokerCheck report has additional information.
Prior to his tenure with The Investment Center from Feb. 2011 to August 2017, Vaccarelli worked for QA3 Financial Corp. in Waterbury, CT; Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Middlebury, CT; and IDS Life Insurance Company in Minneapolis, MN. He also conducted business under the aegis of Lux Financial Services.
If Leon Vaccarelli or perhaps another broker at The Investment Center handled your money and you believe you’re a victim of elder financial fraud, contact the Silver Law Group. An experienced elder financial fraud lawyer will provide a free consultation and explain how you may be able to get money back. You can call us toll-free at 1-800-975-4345 or just fill out our online form. The attorneys at the Silver Law Group only work on contingency, which means you won’t pay us a fee unless we help you recover money.