SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A former financial planner from East Stroudsburg has been sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison for defrauding his clients.

Anthony Diaz, 52, was handed a 210 month long sentence followed by three years of supervised release by the United States District Court. He was taken into custody immediately after sentencing.

Diaz was found guilty of seven counts of wire fraud and four counts of mail fraud back in January of 2020.

His crimes were part of a defrauding scheme committed while Diaz owned and operated a financial planning business called Financial Planners Group of America between 2008 and 2015. Diaz had persuaded his clients to invest in “alternative investment products” including real estate investment trusts, business development firms, oil and gas drilling companies and equipment leasing companies, Acting Attorney Bruce Brandler said.

During the trial, Brandler says a dozen of Diaz’s former clients testified that he convinced them to invest their savings after he falsely presented them as low-risk. Diaz also told his clients these investments were liquid and investors could pull their money at any time which was not true.

According to Brandler, the evidence at trial showed that the investments were speculative and high-risk and caused some investors to lose all their money. Some investors testified that their money could not be liquidated even a decade after the initial investment.

Diaz also committed fraud by falsifying documentation about clients including their risk tolerance and investment experiences. Brandler says clients testified that Diaz would have them sign black documents while Diaz’s former employees said they were ordered to add false information.

In the meantime, Diaz earned commissions on the alternative investments he forced upon his clients. These commissions were reportedly often double or even quadruple the amount earned on conventional investments such as stocks and bonds. This earned Diaz about $1.5 million annually which he spent on vehicles, properties and frequent vacations.

The actual and intended losses Diaz caused was estimated by a judge to be between $1.5 million and $3.5 to his victims alone. Diaz was ordered to pay $1,020,840 to those victims, the judge said.

“While it is true that violent crimes have a devastating impact on victims, it is also true that financial crimes sometimes have an equal, if not greater impact on victims’ lives,” Brandler said. “Unlike physical injuries that can heal in time, losing one’s life savings as one nears retirement is not something many can recover from. Corrupt financial planners like Mr. Diaz who line their own pockets at the expense of their clients will be aggressively prosecuted and receive significant jail sentences, as today’s proceedings prove. Hopefully the significant sentenced imposed today on Mr. Diaz will give his victims some sense of justice and deter others from engaging in similar crimes in the future. I want to commend the prosecutors and the numerous law enforcement agents who worked tirelessly to bring this case to a successful conclusion. “