After pleading guilty to an investment scam that defrauded 34 clients out of over $700,000, a former Merrill Lynch advisor was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday.

Former Merrill financial advisor Stephen Severio, 41, of Fair Haven, N.J. pleaded guilty in February to two counts of theft by deception and one count of commercial bribery.

According to the Asbury Park Press, Severio’s lawyer, Mitchell Ansell, said he was a gambling addict who lost his family and money because of his addiction. “What fuels him is in no way an excuse for what he did,” Ansell said, according to the paper.

Ansell said that Severio is in treatment for his gambling problem and has cooperated with the investigation throughout the case. “He is not trying to hide behind what he did,” Ansell was quoted as saying.

After one of Severio’s victim’s spoke at the sentencing, Severio responded by saying: “I’m sorry. I know I caused you and your families a lot of pain,” he said. “(I will) do everything I can when I get out to make it whole.”

According to reports, Severio approached clients in July 2007 to invest in “an arbitrage investment offering in Europe” that would yield annual returns of 15% to 20%. Thirty one clients gave Severio checks totaling more than $685,000. Three more people came forward since the case started.



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