A Worcester-based investment advisor was charged yesterday in federal court in Boston with defrauding his clients by stealing their funds and using them for various purposes, including to pay purported returns to other defrauded investors.
James Couture, 42, of Sutton, was charged with three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Couture will make an initial appearance in federal court at a later date.
As alleged in charging documents, from approximately 2009 to 2020, Couture misappropriated approximately $2.8 million from his clients by transferring funds out of his clients’ accounts for investment in fictitious funds and using the money for other purposes, including to purchase a client list from another investment advisor. Couture also allegedly used client money to pay fake investment returns to other clients he had defrauded. For example, in or about June 2016, Couture allegedly liquidated one client’s variable annuities to fund withdrawals by another client. It is also alleged that in December 2019 and January 2020, Couture sold one client’s mutual funds and raided a 401(k) plan he managed to fund withdrawals by another client, whose assets Couture purported were held in a mutual fund account, when in fact neither the funds nor the account actually existed.
The charges of wire fraud each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutive to any sentence imposed. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Ramsey E. Covington, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement today. The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission provided valuable assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kriss Basil and Sara Miron Bloom of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law.