As a certified financial planner, 51-year old Gerald Eaton advised clients and invested their funds. He conducted business under the name of Heritage Financial Group, with an office in Acton. $3.8 million is the amount Gerald Allen Eaton is estimated to have cheated clients out of, over a 20-year period, from 1999 (estimated) right up to October 2019 during the conduct of his business.
In a reflection of the depravity that greed can engender, he reserved these ministrations for twenty of his clients who were either elderly or in a mental or physical state that was poor, in order that the chances of his criminal behavior being detected were minimal, according to a Department of Justice press release.
According to the release, his modus operandi was to sell clients holdings of insurance policies, securities, and annuities, and direct the proceeds to an account under his control. He was not averse to forging client signatures on checks and documents or asking them to sign by falsely representing that the sale was for their own benefit. If required, he would make a representation on similar lines to the insurance companies and brokerage firms that were releasing the funds; that the request was for the benefit of his clients.
“In fact, Eaton caused proceeds to be sent to his own credit card accounts to pay his personal and family expenses, and to his home equity line of credit,” the release states. “In order to avoid detection, Eaton defrauded clients he knew were unlikely to notice what he had done, either because they were elderly or in poor mental or physical condition.”
In federal court, Eaton pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft last September. Mail and wire fraud carrying a potential sentence of up to 20 years in jail had been indicated in a press release by the Department of Justice at the time.
He has now been sentenced to 102 months in prison. He has also been asked to pay $3.8 million in restitution and an additional $1.7 million in pre-judgment interest by Douglas Woodlock, U.S. Senior District Court Judge. Eaton also received three years of supervised release.
He has been barred from the Securities industry by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), effective last September.