Federal prosecutors have upped the ante against the self-proclaimed "Annuity King" of Sarasota.
Additional charges of filing false income tax returns and tax evasion were slapped last week against Phillip Roy Wasserman, who the U.S. Attorney's Office has accused of bilking elderly investors out of at least $6.3 million.
Wasserman was indicted in June by a federal grand jury on multiple fraud counts of running an alleged "fraudulent insurance venture" that included Ponzi-style payments to victim-investors.
Wasserman, 63, a former lawyer and a licensed insurance agent, spent much of the investors' money to live a lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said.
Also indicted on those charges, as well as the new fling false tax returns crimes, was Kenneth Murray Rossman of Bradenton, 62, a certified public accountant and licensed insurance agent, who solicited investors and prepared tax returns that concealed negative tax information from both the investors and the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors said.
Both men have pleaded not guilty and are out on bond, court records show. If convicted, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the seven fraud counts in the indictment, plus additional years on the tax charges.
The "superseding indictment" returned last week says Wasserman took "numerous steps" to evade paying more than $900,000 in taxes and filed filed false individual and corporate income tax returns.
"Wasserman spent a significant amount of the victim-investors' money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included luxury residences, high-end vehicles, jet skis, jewelry, entertainment, gambling, retail shopping, home improvements, personal insurance and many other expenses, for his personal benefit and the benefit of his family members," prosecutors said.
The indictments exposed the latest case among the numerous scams that have burned Southwest Florida investors in recent years. Last year, for example, prosecutors charged the principals of a Longboat Key investment firm with operating a a Ponzi scheme that defauded investors out of $72 million.
Wasserman, who billed himself as the "Annuity King" in promotional materials, has operated investment businesses in the Sarasota area for years under various names, including Phillip Roy Financial Consultants and Phillip Roy Financial Services. He has held investment seminars about annuities and life insurance attended by thousands of Florida seniors, some of whom have sued him in past years to recover their money.
The first indictment claimed Wasserman's new insurance venture called FastLife convinced elderly investors to liquidate traditional investments, and to borrow funds against their life insurance policies, to generate cash to put into the new business.
Those investors were not told about surrender fees and other costs associated with the liquidations. Wasserman used investors' money to make payments to earlier investors in the FastLife venture, as well to as victim-investors in his earlier hedge fund and real estate fund ventures, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa said.
PNC Financial Services Group, which operates the eighth-largest bank in the Sarasota-Manatee region, struck a deal last week to buy the U.S. subsidiary of Spain's BBVA bank for $11.6 billion.
PNC will pick up $104 billion in assets and 637 offices, mostly in the south and southwest, from BBVA, whose U.S. operations are headquartered in Houston.
The all-cash purchase is the second-largest U.S. banking acquisition since the 2008 financial crisis, behind only the recent combination of SunTrust and BB&T banks into Truist. It values BBVA's American business at 19.7 times its 2019 earnings and 1.34 times its book value.
"Our acquisition of BBVA USA will accelerate our growth trajectory and drive long-term shareholder value through a strategic deployment of the proceeds from the sale of our BlackRock investment," William Demchak, PNC's president/chairman/CEO, stated in the announcement.
It's a big move for Pittsburgh-based PNC, going national for what until now has been a regional bank.
That bank operates nine branches with $759.4 million in deposits in the Sarasota-Manatee area, according to the latest FDIC data.
PNC first came to the region in 2008 with a wealth-management office in Sarasota after buying the former National City. In 2012 it acquired 11 local branches of RBC Bank, part of a $3.4-billion acquisition of 400 offices in the Southeast.
In Florida, PNC will add 44 offices with $5.6 billion in deposits from BBVA, which does not have operations in this part of the state. The U.S. unit is part of Spanish financial group Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria.
Statewide, PNC currently ranks as the 11th largest bank with 173 offices and $13.4 billion in deposits. With BBVA's deposits, it will move up to the No. 8 spot.
"We view the transaction positively, as the deal accelerates the company's expansion/growth plans by creating a coast-to-coast presence through quickly redeploying funds from the sale of its stake in Blackrock," stated analyst Michael Rose with Raymond James. "The deal is the 21st largest since 1990 (as far as our database reliably goes back) and the second largest since 2008."
The deal is expected to close by mid-2021, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals.