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Ex-LPL advisor gets 20 years for fraud ahead of SEC, arbitration cases

LPL Financial and a former advisor who pleaded guilty to theft and securities fraud must pay at least $3.7 million in disgorgement and arbitration settlements — but the total could climb above $11 million.

Terminated ex-advisor Sonya D. Camarco received a 20-year prison sentence in late September, after a grand jury in Colorado charged her with diverting more than $1.8 million of her clients’ money toward her personal use. FINRA has barred Camarco, 47, and the SEC has filed a civil case against her as well.

Camarco “perpetrated an extraordinarily egregious fraud” through the use of unauthorized withdrawals and forged checks, according to the SEC’s case. The civil filing and a pending FINRA arbitration claim by a client seeking more than $5.9 million will decide the final total payments owed by LPL and Camarco.

LPL regulatory expenses

LPL detected the fraud in July 2017, when its special investigations unit probed a suspicious check drawn from a client’s account, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Camarco spent her clients’ money on credit card expenses, cars, real estate properties and taxes, the state’s investigators say.

“This sentencing sends a clear message that fraud committed by securities professionals will be prosecuted and punished,” state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement.

Clashes over the Labor Department's fiduciary rule have carried over into the debate on the SEC's proposed regulation.
August 14

Camarco’s criminal lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment. Her lawyer in the SEC case said he could not comment before discussing the matter with his incarcerated client. The formerly Colorado Springs-based Camarco is serving time in the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.

Representatives for LPL didn’t respond to requests for comment. Firms often pay settlements and judgements in FINRA arbitration claims involving advisors accused of fraud, but the claims and settlements aren’t public.

In their July claim seeking $5.9 million, Camarco’s former clients allege misappropriation of funds, according to her FINRA BrokerCheck file. Other past clients have won seven settlements for a combined $1.87 million following claims of misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and other allegations.

Camarco stole money from at least 16 clients — the majority of them older women and their families — according to an SEC filing in the civil case. The regulator is seeking disgorgement of $1.5 million, noting that a five-year statute of limitations applies, although investigators say the fraud lasted 13 years.

The clients’ money paid for an “extravagantly lavish lifestyle, including luxury trips to New Zealand and Hawaii, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on art, horses, and high-end furnishings, and multiple houses and vacation homes,” the regulator said in a motion for summary judgment in September.

Camarco_Sonya_LPL_Mugshot

In an Oct. 26 filing in response to the SEC’s motion, Camarco did not contest the regulator’s calculation of the disgorgement at $1.5 million. However, she did dispute the allegation her family benefited from the fraud, noting as an example that she used $12,000 from her own IRA to buy a $19,000 piano.

Camarco believes that, “based on the magnitude of her criminal sentence and the commission’s prior practices with respect to similar parallel cases, there is a substantial possibility that the commission will ultimately refrain from seeking civil monetary penalties with respect to her,” her filing states.

A judge in Colorado’s federal district court will rule on the SEC’s motion and a motion by Camarco’s husband Paul after more filings this week, according to her husband’s lawyer, Paul Hugel. Camarco’s husband seeks to remove himself and the Camarco Living Trust from responsibility for any disgorgement.

“The fraud consisted of Sonya Camarco stealing money from client accounts that she managed,” according to Paul Camarco’s motion. “Relief defendants Paul Camarco and CLT are not alleged to have participated in this fraud in any way or to have had any knowledge of it.”

Sonya Camarco pleaded guilty in the criminal case to one count each of securities fraud and theft over $100,000, receiving 10 years in prison for both charges. She will also serve 20 years of probation at the same time for one count of filing false tax returns, according to state authorities.

She won’t appear before a parole board until April 2028, and the current sentence will run until 2038, state inmate records show. Camarco’s civil lawyer, Kenneth Harmon, has also filed an unopposed motion to donate her three horses and a mini donkey to an animal rescue group.

Securities representatives accused of stealing clients’ funds are “a top enforcement priority for us,” according to Colorado Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome.

“Professionals who hold these trusted positions, but who nevertheless commit these types of crimes should know that the resulting penalty will be severe,” Rome said in a statement.

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