A financial adviser from Fairfield County is facing charges for allegedly running a yearlong multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.
Norwalk resident James Booth, 74, who operated Booth Financial Associates, allegedly solicited money from clients, falsely promising to invest the money in opportunities offered outside of their ordinary advisory and brokerage accounts.
In total, Booth fraudulently obtained nearly $5 million from his customers. Instead of investing their money, Booth used it to pay personal and business expenses, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. Booth was arrested on Monday, Sept. 30 and arraigned in Manhattan federal court.
It is alleged that between 2013 through 2019, Booth directed his clients to write checks or wire money to an entity named “Insurance Trends, Inc.” Instead of investing his clients’ funds, Booth, who controlled the bank account of Insurance Trends, misappropriated his clients’ funds to pay his personal and business expenses.
Among Booth’s alleged victims are a recently-widowed woman who moved money from her late husband’s pension; a man's investment in his child’s college fund; and an elderly man who withdrew money from an annuity established for the care of his disabled sibling.
Berman said that “to prevent investors from seeking a return of their money, and to induce additional investments, Booth provided investors with fabricated account statements that falsely indicated that Booth had purchased certain securities on their behalf and that those investments had generated a profit.
“Booth further concealed the truth from investors by using money obtained from new investors to make redemption payments to previous investors, in a Ponzi-like fashion.”
“As alleged, James Booth convinced his clients that he would deliver solid and secure returns on their investments,” Berman stated. “Instead, as alleged, Booth delivered only lies and deceit, and bilked some 40 clients of nearly $5 million. Booth is now in federal custody and will have to answer for his alleged crimes.”
Booth was charged with individual counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and investment adviser fraud. He faces decades in prison if he is convicted.
“In an elaborate scheme of false promises and deception, it is alleged that Booth attained almost $5 million by luring investors to move their assets with the guarantee of safer investments and higher returns,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter Fitzhugh said.
“Instead, Booth allegedly pocketed the money. HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force has investigated financial fraud cases for more than two decades, and with the continued law enforcement partnerships in these cases, we are able to arrest alleged fraudsters who seek to take advantage of the hopes and dreams of others for their own illicit gain.”
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