Broker Lost at Sea? No, Just Dodging FINRA Complaint

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A broker's desperate plan to escape legal issues by faking his disappearance at sea collapsed on Sunday when authorities finally tracked him down.

Richard Ohrn, a broker formerly with Chase Investment Services and Wells Fargo Advisors in Boca Raton, Fla., went missing on March 31, after renting a boat that was later found drifting off the Boca Raton shore, according to news accounts in the Palm Beach Post and the Sun Sentinel.

He was found Sunday at his residence in Boca Raton where he admitted to planning and carrying out his disappearance, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office announced in an advisory.  Ohrn had used a small inflatable boat and motor to return to shore and then drove to Albany, Ga., in a truck he had recently purchased, the PBSO said.

Ohrn could not be reached for comment.

Dramatic Ending  

Ohrn’s disappearing act was the dramatic end to a long-running fight he’d be having with FINRA and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank.

Ohrn, a broker with Chase Investment Services from July 2009 to June 2011, was being investigated by FINRA for allegedly stealing $15,250 from two elderly customers.  In a civil complaint originally filed in August 2014 and amended in December, FINRA claimed that Ohrn stole $13,250 from an 83-year-old widow and swiped another $2,000 from an 84-year-old.  Both were also customers of J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, FINRA said.

FINRA also accused Ohrn of forging the signatures of four brokerage customers on nine separate documents, including a Transfer on Death Agreement. In addition, FINRA said, he falsified the firm's books and records by changing the account address of record for three customers from their respective home addresses to the address of the branch where Ohrn worked.

Lastly, FINRA charged Ohrn with violating rules while employed at Wells Fargo Advisors from June 2011 to August 2012. FINRA claimed that he guaranteed a Wells Fargo customer against a $9,000 loss she incurred as a result of the early surrender of her variable annuity contract issued by Ohio National Life Insurance Co.

Bruising $2 Million Lawsuit Against Chase

FINRA's complaint came as Ohrn was embroiled in the last leg of a bruising $2 million lawsuit that he brought against J.P. Morgan Chase in February 2013. The lawsuit dragged on for 21 months and was settled in November 2014 without going to trial. 

In the lawsuit—filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida—Ohrn charged his former employer with what he claimed was essentially a smear campaign. Ohrn alleged that the bank had falsely accused him of stealing money from customers in retaliation for reporting inappropriate workplace behavior between a manager and a young subordinate.

Ohrn claimed that he saw a newly hired, female employee “making out” with the manager on the premises of the Chase branch.  When he reported the incident to the human resources department, his manager warned him not to pursue the matter further or risk being fired and "black-balled" in the industry, Ohrn alleged in the lawsuit. 

While Ohrn retracted his report to human resources, he claimed that his manager nevertheless took revenge by moving a substantial portion of Ohrn’s business to the private banking unit, which significantly reduced Ohrn’s compensation.

False Accusations

Upset, Ohrn left Chase in June 2011 to join Wells Fargo Advisors, taking many customers with him. When Chase learned that customers were transferring accounts to Wells Fargo, they began to contact his customers to malign Ohrn and spew false accusations that he was a crook, Ohrn said. 

According to the Ohrn’s lawsuit, managers instructed employees to warn former customers when visiting the branch that Ohrn had stolen money from customers and had done unethical and inappropriate things in customers’ accounts.

Ohrn claimed that the 16 customer complaints that poured in two months after leaving Chase were instigated by Chase to mar his reputation.  He noted that when he left Chase he had no adverse disclosures or complaints on FINRA’s Form U5 and had had no customer complaints during the roughly four years he was employed in the financial services industry.

Ohrn, who was fired from Wells Fargo Advisors in August 2012, blamed Chase for his dismissal.

Three attorneys for Ohrn—Michael S. Hill, Gary Steve Menzer and Craig Alan Rubinstein of law firm Katzman Wasserman Bennardini & Rubinstein—and two attorneys for Chase—Brian M. McPherson and Gerard Joseph Curley, Jr., of the law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart—did not return numerous calls and email requests, seeking comment.  Michael Fusco, a spokesperson for Chase Wealth Management, declined to comment, as did Michelle Ong, a spokesperson for FINRA.

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