TRENTON – A Somerset County-based financial advisor was sentenced Wednesday to 27 months in prison for stealing $138,000 from two elderly investors and funding his lavish lifestyle with money he claimed to be investing in conservative securities and his business, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ralph A. Saviano, 72, of Bridgewater, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Saviano, an investment advisor who had worked in the financial industry for more than 40 years, targeted clients through his association with Centaurus Financial Inc., and later through Saviano Financial Group (SFG), from as early as July 2007 through October 2012.
During this time, Saviano had approximately 300 clients, many of whom were unsophisticated investors between the ages of 60 and 85, whom he had known for many years and who trusted his financial experience and advice. Saviano admitted he targeted clients he knew were about to receive significant amounts of cash, such as maturing certificates of deposit (CDs), and proposed that they invest those funds in low-risk investments or in his business, SFG. Saviano said he would use these “business loans” solely for business expenses.
Saviano admitted that in May 2012, an 85-year-old client gave him approximately $63,000 from a mature CD that she was told would be invested in two investment funds. Saviano accompanied the client to her bank to redeem the CD and instructed her make the proceeds from the CD payable to him. In June 2012, another of Saviano’s clients – 80 years old and suffering from cancer – gave Saviano approximately $75,000 she inherited from a recently deceased relative, making the check payable to “Cash” with the words “financial investment” in the memo field.
Instead of doing as he claimed, Saviano used the funds to repay prior “loans” from other clients in Ponzi-scheme fashion, and to pay for various personal expenses, including: at least $33,000 for granite countertops and other home improvements, $18,000 in cash payments to himself and family members, $10,000 in personal mortgage and rent payments, and thousands more in jewelry, clothing, a family vacation to Aruba and a theater donation.
At the plea hearing on June 5, 2013, Wolfson entered a consent judgment and order of forfeiture in the amount of $699,926.51, which constitutes the proceeds Saviano obtained from his known investor victims as a result of his offense.
In addition to the prison term, Wolfson sentenced Saviano to three years of supervised release and ordered restitution of $699,926.51.
In a parallel investigation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Sept. 6, 2013, issued an order instituting settled administrative proceedings against Saviano. In its order, the SEC barred Saviano from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization. It also barred him from participating in any offering of a penny stock, including: acting as a promoter, finder, consultant, agent or other person who engages in activities with a broker, dealer or issuer for purposes of the issuance or trading in any penny stock, or inducing or attempting to induce the purchase or sale of any penny stock.
Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Aaron T. Ford in Newark, for the investigation leading to the sentence. He also thanked the SEC’s New York office for its assistance with the investigation.
If you believe you are a victim of or otherwise have information concerning this alleged scheme, authorities encourage you to contact the FBI at 973-792-3000.
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