EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The United States Court of Appeals upheld both the conviction and sentence of a former East Stroudsburg financial planner who defrauded his clients.
Accoridng to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, September 19, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld both the conviction and 17 and half-years sentencing of 54-year-old, Anthony Diaz, formerly of East Stroudsburg.
Officials say Diaz was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion on March 26, 2021, after Diaz was convicted by a jury on numerous counts of wire fraud and mail fraud.
U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam said from around 2008 through April of 2015, Diaz owned and operated Financial Planners Group of America, a financial planning business based in East Stroudsburg and Scotrun.
According to law enforcement Diaz would persuade his clients to invest in high-risk ‘alternative investment products.’ This included real estate investment trusts, business development companies, oil and gas drilling companies, and equipment leasing companies.
Police say Diaz would convince his clients to invest their life savings into ‘the alternative investments’ through a series of fake representations, including that the investments were low-risk, with guaranteed protection of their investment and a guaranteed rate of return on the investment.
After being found guilty of these crimes, Diaz appealed his conviction with a large number of challenges to his sentence as well, leading the Court of Appeals to state, “On appeal, parties sometimes throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. Here, nothing does.”
The Court of Appeals found that the government properly showed evidence and proved the full scope of Diaz’s scheme to defraud, multiple clients.
According to a press release, Diaz’s former employees testified that they were ordered to conceal his firings and lie to the clients about his changes between broker-dealers. Diaz was also suspended by the Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards in 2013 and under investigation by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking, both institutions ultimately barred Diaz from the securities industry in 2015.
In upholding Diaz’s sentence the Court of Appeals upheld a sentence imposed by the District Court for defrauding at least 25 victims. The court also upheld four other sentence enhancements for engaging in a scheme that involved sophisticated means, violating securities laws, having an aggravating role in directing others to engage in criminal activity, and obstruction of justice for committing perjury when testifying during the trial.
The Court of Appeals found Diaz’s sentence substantively reasonable, noting that the District Court sentenced him to more than four years below his advisory guidelines.