Two Local Businessmen Plead Guilty to Multiple Federal Fraud Charges Involving Elderly Victims in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS, MO—Robert Palmer and Mark Driver pled guilty late Thursday to defrauding numerous elderly victims of approximately $3,000,000, beginning in 2004 and continuing through 2010.
According to the indictment, Princeton Partnership LLC was an insurance brokerage business involved in the sale of life insurance products. Princeton operated out of offices in the Hill area of St. Louis at 1928 Marconi Street (also known as 5149 Daggett Avenue). Palmer and Driver both ran the day to day operations of Princeton, solicited customers, marketed the company’s services, and had financial oversight of the company with authorization over the company’s two operating bank accounts. Palmer and Driver solicited Princeton customers with the false promises that they would invest the customers’ funds in suitable investments including but not limited to real estate, stocks, and life insurance annuities. Examples of those victims include:
During 2004, Palmer solicited several members of a family who had received funds upon the death of their elderly aunt with the false representation that Princeton would place those funds in a real estate investment for the benefit of those customers. Based upon his false representations, the family members transferred some or all of those funds to Princeton.
In 2005, Palmer solicited funds from an elderly individual and her family with the false representation that they would place those funds in a real estate investment for her benefit. Based on those representations, the family transferred her funds to Princeton.
During 2006 through 2010, Palmer solicited investment funds from two elderly sisters with the false representations that Princeton would make suitable investments with those funds. They transferred their funds and control of their stock holdings to Princeton and, later Palmer and Driver sold and liquidated the stocks and persuaded one of the sisters to liquidate a life insurance policy as well and transfer the funds to Princeton.
During 2007 through 2009, Driver solicited investment funds from an elderly woman who transferred her funds as well as control of her stock holdings to Princeton.
In 2006, an elderly woman was solicited by Driver to invest her personally held funds in a series of life insurance annuities through Princeton. Princeton used her funds to purchase four life insurance annuities. As a further part of the scheme, during in or about 2008 and 2009, at Driver’s direction she liquidated three of her life insurance annuities and provided those funds to Princeton based upon the false representations of the funds would be placed in suitable investments for her benefit.
Most or all of the funds transferred to Palmer, Driver, and Princeton by the numerous victims were used by Palmer and Driver for their own personal uses and the general operating expenses of Princeton. Palmer and Driver also engaged in Ponzi-type transactions where they used some funds provided by new customers to pay old customers who falsely believed they were receiving the returns on their purported investments.
In all cases, Palmer and Driver obtained approximately $3,000,000 from Princeton customers based upon their false representations, which they used for their own personal use and for the expenses of their company Princeton.
Palmer, 45, Kansas City, Missouri, and Driver, 50, St. Louis, pled guilty to all charges contained in the indictment, including two felony counts of mail fraud and two felony counts of wire fraud, before United States District Judge Rodney Sippel. Sentencings have been set for September 12, 2014.
Each count of mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Postal Inspection Service, with assistance of the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.