A former suburban Chicago financial advisor has been sentenced to prison for swindling elderly clients out of millions of dollars, ThinkAdvisor reports.
U.S District Court Judge Manish Shah sentenced 58-year-old Lucita Zamoras of Niles, Illinois to four and a half years behind bars along with two years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $3.14 million to the victims.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Zamoras held herself out as a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning, even though she was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in any capacity.
Prosecutors said she targeted elderly clients, particularly immigrants, telling them falsely that she would place their assets in safe, low-risk investments. Instead she spent the money on personal and business expenses, including gambling costs, payroll expenditures, credit card payments, airline tickets, car payments, and utilities. Zamoras also used the funds to make Ponzi-type payments to earlier investors in an effort to conceal the scheme, according to the charges.
From 2009 until 2018, Zamoras defrauded at least a dozen investors out of approximately $2.5 million, and was charged with one count of mail fraud.
In its complaint, the SEC stated that Zamoras met many of her clients through free lunch investment seminars and that many of them were first generation immigrants who had worked their entire life to save for their retirement but were unsophisticated when it came to investing.
“In perpetrating her fraud, Zamoras preyed upon the Filipino community living in and around the Chicago area. Originally from the Philippines herself, she sought to earn her victims’ trust by conveying a sense of shared experience. Upon gaining their trust, she used that trust to gain access to their funds,” the SEC said.
Zamoras pleaded guilty to the fraud charge in May 2019.
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