A former bank advisor tricked by a hacker posing as the advisor's customer was barred permanently from the brokerage industry last week.
David Paul Santos, a broker with Pioneer Bank in Troy, N.Y., allegedly complied with the imposter's email request to wire funds from the customer's brokerage account to a third-party bank account, even though Santos did not have a signed letter of authorization to do so.
According to FINRA, Santos requested a signed letter of authorization but the imposter claimed to be unable to provide it and instructed Santosvia the customer's email account, which the imposter had hacked intoto process the wire without it.
Santos obliged by affixing his customer's and his customer's wife's signatures to the letter of authorization, FINRA said. He foolishly continued to forge their signatures each time the swindler sent him an email request for a wire transfer over a near two-month period from February to April 2014.
In total, Santos falsified his customers' signatures on 10 letters of authorization, allowing the trickster to steal $160,000 from the customers' accounts, FINRA claimed.
Santos did not respond to an email sent to him via BrightScope Advisor Pages, an online directory for financial advisors. He could not otherwise be reached for comment. His attorney, Brian Mumford of the law firm Cahill Gambino in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., did not return voice and email messages, seeking comment.
Santos worked for both PSB Financial Services, the brokerage arm of Pioneer Bank, and Cetera Investment Services, the bank's third-party broker dealer, in Troy, N.Y., according to his BrokerCheck report. He was terminated by Cetera in May 2014, FINRA said.
The imposter's scheme was eventually discovered by the third-party bank into which the funds were being wired. Cetera Investment Services recovered some of the funds from the third-party bank and reimbursed the customers for their entire loss, FINRA said.
In addition to forging customer signatures, Santos allegedly executed 12 unauthorized sales of stocks and municipal bonds in the customer's individual and joint brokerage accounts to fund the swindler's wire transfers. He had neither the discretion nor the authorization to execute the trades, according to FINRA.
He also allegedly made another mistake by mismarking the order tickets for the unauthorized trades as "unsolicited," when in fact, they were solicited, causing Cetera's records to be inaccurate, FINRA claimed.
In his settlement with FINRA, Santos neither admitted nor denied the allegations but consented to an entry of FINRA's findings.
A spokesperson for Cetera Investment Services declined to comment, saying that it does not comment on legal or regulatory matters related to individuals no longer affiliated with the firm. Pioneer Bank did not return a telephone message.
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