Dallas Securities Broker Admits Fraud
DALLAS—Wade Lawrence, 43, of Dallas, a securities broker, appeared this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Horan and pleaded guilty to a felony Information charging one count of securities fraud, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Lawrence faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine or twice any pecuniary gain to the defendant or loss to the victims. In addition, Lawrence agrees to forfeit $1,542,966, in proceeds traceable to the offense, in the form of a money judgment and proceeds from the sale of his residence. Lawrence will remain on bond pending sentencing, a date for which was not set.
According to documents filed in the case, from June 2008 through July 2011, Lawrence worked as a securities broker by Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., in Dallas and was active in conducting trades in his customer brokerage accounts. In 2010 and 2011, Lawrence began to lose significant amounts of money, both in his clients’ trading accounts and his individual trading account. In August 2011, Lawrence moved to Southwest Securities in Dallas, where his trading losses continued.
Beginning in January 2012 and continuing through September 2013, Lawrence engaged in a scheme to defraud to obtain funds from individuals, with whom many he had longstanding personal and business relationships and who trusted him. He falsely offered for sale various investments, including real estate ventures and securities outside the brokerage accounts at Southwest Securities. He also offered interests in what he represented were a high-risk investment in options on the Volatility Index (VIX) on the Chicago Board Options Exchange.
Lawrence also solicited funds from several individuals by falsely representing they would be invested in a duplex. He falsely represented to other investors that their money would be invested in various securities such as in Facebook and Southwest Securities.
Lawrence represented to investors that their investments would return anywhere from 20 to 100 percent, and that it was possible to double their investment. In each case, he directed the investor to mail or wire-transfer funds to his personal account at Wells Fargo Bank, instead of a Southwest Securities account, giving various explanations for this, including that he was trying to start his own VIX fund and needed to establish a history for the fund.
Lawrence, however, only invested some of the investors’ money as represented. Instead, he spent several hundred thousand dollars of the proceeds for personal living expenses, including travel, mortgage payments on his Dallas residence, and a $10,000 piece of jewelry. In total, Lawrence obtained approximately $2,124,000 from the scheme. He returned approximately $581,034 to some of the investors.
The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Stokes is in charge of the prosecution.