The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit says that a district court improperly applied an “identity theft enhancement” when calculating the prison sentence of Bryan Hawes, a rogue investment adviser who had pled guilty to two counts of mail fraud. As a result, Judge Marjorie Rendell vacated Hawes’s 6 ½ year prison sentence and remanded for sentencing.
Hawes is the owner and president of Financial Management Advisory Services (FMAS) and Financial Management Services (FMS) Inc. He is also a registered investment adviser. He became an authorized representative for Fidelity Investment Advisors Group in 1997.
According to the court, Hawes defrauded his investment adviser clients. Rather than fulfill the agreements he made to buy annuities for them, he would either keep the money or buy annuities but later liquidate them for his personal use.
Hawes covered up his theft by generating false statements, making it appear as if the accounts contained larger balances, and submitting these reports to clients.
In 1998, Hawes convinced a number of clients to transfer their assets into products that were offered by Fidelity. From 1998 to until 2002, clients regularly received account statements from Fidelity and Hawes. The statements that Hawes provided through FMAS matched the account balances on statements provided by Fidelity.
In 2002, however, Hawes reportedly went into his clients’ accounts without their consent and changed the addresses to which Fidelity was supposed mail their account statements-in many instances, he provided his own office address.
He then told clients that Fidelity was not issuing paper account statements anymore and that his company, FMAS, would be responsible for generating these statements for them.
Hawes then started transferring client funds into his own account. He also transferred funds from one client to another so the thefts would go undetected. FMAS continued to issue account statements that falsely overstated the value of clients’ Fidelity accounts.
In 2003, Hawes’s mother discovered that he had been stealing money from her and her husband, who had just died. She threatened to report him unless he paid her back. He took $125,000 from other clients to repay her.
Hawes’s fraud scheme was discovered later that year. He pleaded guilty two counts of mail fraud in 2004 and was sentenced to 78 months in prison and a 3-year supervised release. He was ordered to pay invest clients $2,276,565.31 in restitution.
Hawes appealed his sentence on the grounds that the district court made a mistake when it applied a two-level identity theft enhancement to his base level offense because he had changed his clients’ addresses. On March 27, the appeals court agreed that Hawes’s conduct did not merit this enhancement.
Related Web Resources:
Final Passage of H.R. 1731, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, SSA.gov, June 29, 2004
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