The former chief compliance officer and controller of Executive Compensation Planners (ECP), a registered investment adviser and financial planning firm, pleaded guilty Tuesday for participating in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded clients out of more than $11 million.
Vania May Bell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith McCarthy of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She faces a maximum potential term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Bell is scheduled to be sentenced July 7.
The details: ECP worked with a broker-dealer that maintained securities accounts for its clients. In a scheme to obtain money from the accounts, Hector May, the former president of ECP and Bell’s father, advised clients “to use money from those accounts to have ECP, rather than the broker-dealer, purchase bonds on their behalf,” according to the Justice Department.
Bell assisted May in persuading victims to withdraw their money and forward it, by wire transfer or check, to an ECP custodial account, purportedly to “use the money to purchase bonds on their behalf,” the Justice Department stated. In truth, Bell and May “transferred the money to ECP’s ‘operating’ account and spent it on business expenses, personal expenses, and to make payments to certain victims in order to perpetuate the scheme and conceal the fraud,” the Justice Department stated.
Bell, along with May, sent phony “consolidated” account statements to victims, which “purported to reflect the victims’ total portfolio balances and included the names of bonds May falsely represented that he purchased for the victims and the amounts of interest the victims were supposedly earning on the bonds,” the Justice Department continued.
In total, from the late 1990s through March 2018, Bell and May induced victims to forward them more than $11.4 million.
After pleading guilty for his role in the scheme, May was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2019 and ordered to forfeit $11.5 million and pay $8 million in restitution.