An ex-broker accused of stealing $475,000 from the retirement accounts of three former clients has been indicted, say state officials.
A grand jury returned an indictment against 44-year-old Howard Price III charging the former advisor with three counts of theft and one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices in a Superior Court in Arizona.
From 2013 to 2017, Price allegedly convinced three clients to roll over their IRA retirement money to his firm, Howard Price Wealth Management, with the promise of guaranteed returns, says the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in a statement. Price allegedly raised $630,000 during that period. Instead of investing the funds as promised, he misappropriated the retirement funds to make purchases at clubs, bars and restaurants, say prosecutors.
In November, The Arizona Corporation Commission filed a cease and desist order after an investigation found that Price and his firm raised more than $630,000 from investors from July 2013 to January 2017, according to the commission.
Price told clients that he set up accounts with reputable investment firms like LPL Financial and E*TRADE when no such accounts existed, says the commission.
“I successfully rolled your check into your HPWM IRA ... our goal of having one IRA with me and one IRA with E*TRADE has come to fruition,” Price told a client in a 2016 email that was cited in the court documents.
Price failed to produce financial statements for one client who invested $273,000 with his firm — even after requests from the client and her daughter, says the commission. Another client was told that a $40,000 investment in a promissory note had an annual percentage rate of 25% paid monthly, according to the documents.
The alleged victims were Price’s clients while at AXA Advisors and personal acquaintances, according to the commission. Price told one client that he had a two-year non-compete agreement with his prior firm, but wanted to reopen the relationship. In fact, Price had voluntarily left the firm in 2012, says the commission. None of the victims named in the indictment could be reached for comment.
"These allegations occurred after this individual voluntarily terminated his affiliation with AXA Advisors in July 2012," says a firm spokeswoman. "We are cooperating fully with local authorities."
Price could not be reached for comment and it is unclear whether he has an attorney.
Price has three disclosures on record with FINRA, all stemming from his time spent at AXA Advisors. All of the disclosures pertain to customer disputes alleging Price misrepresented a 2011 variable annuity and all three settled for under $25,000 combined, per BrokerCheck.
Before AXA, Price was previously with Merrill Lynch from 2003 until 2007, per BrokerCheck.