A former financial planner, who was excluded from the securities industry and had to pay customers millions of dollars in damages, is due to face court fraud on Monday.
Anthony Diaz was fired from a number of brokers with ongoing customer complaints and violations. Still, he invested in other people's money until Wall Street's self-regulation saw enough in 2015 and blocked him permanently.
Some investors said they lost their savings due to Diaz.
"They gave him money that they couldn't afford to lose, and they told him so," said Attorney General Phillip Caraballo in his opening speech to a jury on Monday.
He said clients had paid out their retirement funds to be sent to the smooth financial planner who "promised to put their money in safe, low-risk investments that promise guaranteed profits" ”For discerning investors who knew what they were looking for get involved and could afford to lose their capital.
"Anthony Diaz built his business on lies, he built it on fraud, he built it on fraud," said Caraballo.
Former broker Darren Gelber's lawyer told jury members that after the recent financial crisis, Diaz tried to help clients diversify. He said the investments – in real estate funds, oil and gas holdings, equipment leasing and other financial products – were legitimate.
Former customers wishing to testify against Diaz "got what they acted for," Gelber said, although their investments may not have paid off.
Diaz pleaded not guilty to an 11-point wire and mail fraud charge. Each count can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The process is in the midst of a legal dispute over a new Trump administration rule, according to which brokers must put their clients' interests above their own. Democrats and advocates of consumer protection said the rule actually weakens investor protection, and seven states and the District of Columbia have sued the Securities and Exchange Commission to block it.
Diaz was once considered one of the best brokers in the country, earning millions of dollars in his 15-year career promoting high-risk, high-risk “alternative investments”. Prosecutors said unsuspecting customers signed blank documents and then forged their assets, income, investment experience, and risk tolerance to appear to meet the product's eligibility requirements.
The broker also lied to customers because they had been fired. The indictment alleged that he voluntarily left every company.
Two years ago, the financial industry regulator asked Diaz to pay 19 former customers approximately $ 4 million in damages. He didn't stick to it, an agency spokeswoman said last week.
Adam Gana, an experienced securities lawyer who represented some of Diaz's former customers, said he was looking for Diaz assets that could be used to cover the damage but were left empty-handed. "
Diaz & # 39; customers "were only retirees or people nearing retirement when they met Diaz," Gana said in an interview. "Widows, older, inexperienced investors who were totally screwed by him."
Diaz has skipped at least one more damage bonus.
Bruce Kilby, a retired pharmaceutical company employee who had invested around $ 350,000 in Diaz, won an arbitration award of $ 220,000 a few years ago.
"Let him end up in prison," Kilby said in a phone interview. "And I hope you take his money. He shouldn't have it. It caused great pain to many people in their lives. "