Posted on: February 14, 2021, 10:02h.
Last updated on: February 14, 2021, 10:07h.
A debarred investment broker is out on bail after federal authorities charged him with stealing more than $400,000 from clients to pay personal debts, including money he owed casinos.
Apostolos Pitsironis, 52, faces up to 20 years in prison, according to a release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. FBI agents arrested him Wednesday in Dix Hills on Long Island. He made his initial court appearance that same day.
According to a complaint filed Tuesday by FBI Special Agent Rachel Cartwright, Pitsironis served as an advisor to an unnamed married couple for 10 years beginning in 2009. After he switched firms late in 2018, the couple moved their accounts to his new firm so he could continue to manage them.
A January 2019 announcement in Newsday showed Janney Montgomery Scott LLC hired Pitsironis to be its first vice president located at its Melville office. Previously, he worked as a branch manager for Wells Fargo.
Around that same time, authorities claim Pitsironis asked his clients for a $200,000 loan. They turned down his request.
Nearly six months later, between May 2, 2019, and June 11, 2019, they allege he made 22 wire transfers from the victims’ accounts to one he and his wife controlled. In making the transfers, Pitsironis falsely said he received verbal approval to make the transfers.
Financial advisors have a significant responsibility to appropriately manage the life savings of those who put their faith in them. Anyone who falls short on this front by engaging in illegal practices should, and will, be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. in a statement.
Court records show Pitsironis posted the $200,000 bond on Wednesday.
More Than $60,000 Went to Casinos
Cartwright claimed Pitsironis spent at least $62,402 at three casinos. He sent $40,502 to an unnamed Atlantic City casino, and then another $15,000 to a second casino in the New Jersey town.
He also sent $2,000 to an unnamed casino in south Florida. Records indicate he also made more than $2,000 in payments toward a car and more than $1,700 to a landscaper.
Pitsironis also allegedly made withdrawals totaling $18,600. That included a $4,900 disbursement at an ATM at the first unnamed Atlantic City casino.
The funds became frozen about a week after the last transfers.
“As alleged, the defendant stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors to pay his personal debts, violating the trust they had placed in him to manage their money safely and honestly,” Acting US Attorney Seth D. DuCharme said in a statement. “This Office is committed to protecting the investing public from corrupt financial advisors like the defendant who put greed before their clients’ best interests.”
Bilking investors to pay off gambling debts or support a habit is not a new trend. Authorities have prosecuted several for operating Ponzi schemes to bankroll gaming sprees.
Sports radio personality Craig Carton received a 42-month federal sentence after using $5.6 million of investors’ money meant for a ticket-reselling business to fuel a gambling habit. After serving about a year in prison, he is currently on home incarceration.
Authority Banned Broker After Compliant
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) serves as a private regulatory authority over securities businesses. Its origins date back more than 80 years.
FINRA’s BrokerCheck indicated a client filed a complaint on June 17, 2019, that Pitsironis transferred $411,000 out of their account without permission. The record indicates Janney Montgomery Scott settled the case in full.
On June 19, records show that the firm terminated him after conducting its own review.
On Sept. 9, 2019, the organization announced it barred Pitsironis from “associating with any FINRA member firm” in any position. In the ruling, FINRA stated Pitsironis accepted it “without admitting or denying” the accusations.
From Sept. 6, 2019, to Feb. 26, 2020, six more clients filed disputes. All indicate the client loaned Pitsironis money, but he either was slow in repaying or did not pay at all. In some cases, funds came from clients’ individual retirement accounts and faced tax penalties without a timely repayment.
Those six cases claimed damages totaling nearly $434,000. BrokerCheck says all parties settled the cases for nearly $370,000 combined.