FINRA has struck again.
The regulator last week expelled a former Wells Fargo advisor for allegedly cheating a customer out of nearly $60,000 and ordered him to pay restitution to make the customer whole.
Alejandro Ariel Torres, who worked for Wells Fargo Advisors in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., supposedly approached the 64-year-old widowed customer for a purported 50/50 partnership opportunity in his start-up venture, Towers Investments. According to FINRA documents, he took the $75,000 check the customer gave him as her share of a capital investment in the venture and deposited it into a checking account over which Torres had exclusive access and control.
Money Used for BMW Car Payments
Rather than using the funds for business purposes related to the venture, Torres instead allegedly used at least $59,600 to pay for his personal expenses, including BMW car payments, meals at various restaurants and veterinarian bills.
Torres was able to conceal his misconduct from the customer by arranging to have Towers bank account statements sent to him and not his supposed partner, FINRA said.
Torres took the $75,000 check on or about Dec. 19, 2013, while employed at Wells Fargo, but converted the funds from January 2014 to July 2014, while employed at Miami-based independent broker-dealer Global Strategic Investments, according to FINRA.
Torres was with Wells Fargo from January 2013 to January 2014, when he joined Global Strategic Investments. He left Global Strategic Investments on July 30, 2014, FINRA said.
Torres 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, Forrest Sygman of Miami, declined to comment.
In his settlement with FINRA, Torres neither admitted nor denied the charges but consented to an entry of FINRA's findings.
In addition to defrauding the customer, Torres violated multiple rules that on their own would have gotten him in trouble. He failed to give Wells Fargo prior written notice of his outside business venture, as required by FINRA and the firm. He formed the business as a limited liability company under Florida law, opened a bank account in its name and obtained an employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service on its behalf, FINRA said.
He also broke other rules by lying to his later employer, Global Strategic Investments, that he was the sole owner of Towers and that he had not recommended or negotiated the sale of any membership or partnership interest in Towers to any third party.
Lastly, Torres failed to cooperate with FINRA's investigation, ignoring the regulator's repeated requests for information and refusing to appear for testimony.
In addition to being permanently barred from the industry, Torres was ordered to pay $59,600 in restitution to the customer, plus interest from Dec. 19, 2013 to the date when the amount is paid in full.
Anthony Mattera, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo Advisors, declined to comment on Torres's expulsion from the industry. Bart Daszkiewicz, the chief compliance officer at Global Strategic Investments, also had no comment, noting only that Torres's association with his firm was very brief and that he is no longer registered with the firm in any capacity.