ACTON — An Acton man was sentenced to 102 months in prison on Tuesday for a long-running scheme to steal money from clients of his investment advisor business, in which he fraudulently obtained in excess of $3.8 million from more than 20 clients.
In order to avoid detection, 51-year-old Gerald Allan Eaton defrauded clients he knew would be unlikely to notice his criminal behavior, either because they were elderly, or in poor mental or physical condition, according to a Department of Justice press release.
The release states Eaton was a certified financial planner, doing business under the name Heritage Financial Group, with an office in Acton. As a certified financial planner, Eaton invested client funds in securities and various insurance products, including life insurance policies and annuities.
According to the release, “from at least 1999 through October 2019,” Eaton stole millions of dollars from clients’ accounts by selling securities, insurance policies and annuities in clients’ accounts, and causing the proceeds to be sent to accounts he owned or controlled.
Eaton also forged client signatures on checks and documents, or caused clients to sign documents by falsely representing that the proceeds of transactions would be used for the clients’ benefit, according to the release.
The release states Eaton also falsely represented to the brokerage firm with which he was affiliated and to insurance companies that the transactions he requested on his clients’ behalf were for the benefit of those clients.
“In fact, Eaton caused proceeds to be sent to his own credit card accounts to pay his personal and family expenses, and to his home equity line of credit,” the release states. “In order to avoid detection, Eaton defrauded clients he knew were unlikely to notice what he had done, either because they were elderly or in poor mental or physical condition.”
Last September, Eaton pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. In a press release issued at that time by the Department of Justice, it stated mail and wire fraud include a potential sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.
In addition to the 102-month prison sentence handed down to Eaton on Tuesday, U.S. Senior District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock ordered the 51-year-old to pay $3.8 million in restitution and an additional $1.7 million in pre-judgement interest. Eaton also received three years of supervised release.
Last September, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) entered an order barring Eaton from the securities industry.
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