by Jerry Guarino
Id like to open
an account, said the engaging Latina with
long, black hair as she glided into the office.
Clayton held out a chair for her. Its
a great day to invest. What is your name dear?
She crossed her legs and stroked her pearl
necklace. Ariadna Ramirez. Call me Ari.
Clayton shifted his body to hide his enthusiasm.
Ari, how much did you want to start with?
She leaned forward. $10,000 for now, Mr.?
Clayton excused himself. Sorry, Clayton
Rook. Ari, Im so glad to meet you.
His smile was as crooked as Aris was pure.
But Ari was really an undercover agent for the
SEC, assigned to flush out brokers who were
stealing from their clients. Clayton came to her
attention because he had swindled her cousin
Mateo out of his life savings between 1999 and
2005. He encouraged Mateo to invest in high tech
sector funds, with huge broker fees, even as the
bottom was falling out of the market. Mateo lost
$80,000 over that time period without even a
phone call or letter from the broker advising him
to make changes in his portfolio.
After Clayton created Aris account, now
tagged with electronic traces, he thought he
would try to establish a different kind of
rapport. Ari, I have time for lunch. Would
you join me to celebrate your future wealth?
She knew he had taken the bait without a clue.
At lunch Clayton brushed his hand against hers
and left it there. Ari glanced and replied,
Arent you married? spying the
Clayton rubbed her finger slowly. Well,
that depends on you and he made eye contact.
Ari played the part. Hmm. Do you have time
for another meeting? as she nodded toward
the registration desk from the hotel restaurant.
The next day Clayton was making changes to Aris
account. He saw a flash investment memo pop up on
Evergreen utilities stock. Opening now at $7.50
40% commission on new account investing over $5,000.
Clayton decided to move Aris entire account
into the stock, take his commission and falsify
documents to show her where her money was
invested. He figured he had at least a year to
create a trail of circumstances that would
explain any losses while he pocketed a cool $4000.
What he didnt know was that Evergreen
Utilities was a dummy company, set up by the SEC
as part of the sting.
Together in the hotel bar that night, Ari asked
Clayton about the investment. So where have
you put my money?
Clayton had the cool demeanor of a used car
salesman. Diversified portfolio. Stocks,
bonds, annuities and even a little gold.
Ari teased him a little. Will I get a
Clayton never hesitated. Its all
online. Here is the login and password.
Ari thought to herself. He even set up a dummy
portfolio. Smooth. She stroked Claytons
cheek. Good. Then we have more time for us.
As they were about to go upstairs to the room,
they heard a commercial on the television set
above the bar. It was for Claytons
financial services company.
Stay on the right financial path. Follow the
yellow brick road to retirement. Call an advisor
you can trust. Well give you the time and
attention you deserve.
Unknown to Clayton (and the SEC), Ari ran a
stealth program on his finances, gradually
funneling funds from his accounts to an
untraceable account for Mateo. Basically, it
worked this way. For every dollar that Clayton
took from Ari, $8 was transferred to Mateo from
Claytons accounts. But the missing money
never appeared on Claytons records; there
were phantom numbers to keep Clayton in the dark.
Dont you feel bad betraying your wife?
Clayton took Ari in his arms. If she doesnt
ask questions, she cant get hurt, right?
It was the same character flaw that led to his
Well, Im glad you dont treat
your clients that way. Ari winked. Or
Ari arranged to be in Claytons office the
day he was arrested for securities fraud. Mateo
was reimbursed and Clayton had to make
restitution to the SEC for the original $10,000.