FINRA barred a former bank advisor from the industry for attempting to swindle customers.

Christopher Somes Babcock, a former registered representative first with Citigroup Global Markets and later Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, allegedly took approximately $160,000 his customers sent him for investment purposes and used it for his own use and benefit. According to FINRA, Babcock instructed customers to wire money from their Citigroup or Morgan Stanley accounts to their personal bank accounts and to then either wire him money or send him a check. In some instances, he allegedly deposited the funds in his personal brokerage account or a third party’s personal brokerage account.

In addition, he falsified a customer’s account summaries, mailing them to the customer without Citigroup’s or Morgan Stanley’s knowledge and review, FINRA said.  At least two of the statements falsely inflated the value of the customer’s portfolio.

Babcock worked for Citigroup Global Markets from December 2007 to June 2009, when he was transferred to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. On Feb. 2, 2011, he was discharged by Morgan Stanley for failing to meet management’s expectations for production, FINRA said.

Morgan Stanley did not return a call seeking comment.  Babcock could not be reached.

In addition to barring Babcock, FINRA fined and suspended an advisor formerly registered with Deutsche Bank Securities. Jeffery Bowman Ellis was suspended for two months and fined $10,000 for allegedly executing six unauthorized trades in a deceased customer’s account. He was fired from Deutsche Bank Securities on Aug. 15, 2012, for executing the trades and breaching the firm’s policy on the utilization of discretion in non-managed accounts, according to BrokerCheck.

Ellis, who turns 65 in June, noted that he had a 35-year perfect record with FINRA before his termination by Deutsche Bank. There is “no chance I will work for a FINRA member firm again,” he said in an email. Ellis’ suspension from associating with any FINRA member firm ends in July. 

FINRA also suspended and fined Emily Palmer Vitale, an advisor with Florida Investment Advisors (now called BT Wealth Advisors), a subsidiary of The Tampa Banking Co. Vitale was fined $5,000 and suspended for three months for forging a customer’s signature. In January 2014, while facilitating a customer’s request to transfer funds from the customer’s brokerage account to the customer’s bank checking account, Vitale falsified a letter of authorization by cutting the customer’s signature from another document and pasting it onto the letter of authorization, FINRA said in the settlement letter with Vitale.

Vitale’s suspension went into effect on May 5. Neither she nor Florida Investment Advisors returned an email seeking comment. T. Scott Fleming, the managing director of Wealth Management at the Bank of Tampa, did not return a call. 

Babcock, Ellis and Vitale neither admitted nor denied the charges but consented to an entry of FINRA’s findings.

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