Advisor's alleged 26-year real estate scam derailed by regulators
A high-producing advisor associated with IBD firm United Planners Financial Services of America has been charged with running a 26-year real estate investment scheme in Massachusetts that defrauded clients and other investors out of at least $1 million.
Thomas Riquier allegedly solicited money from clients and other individuals to purchase property in Rowley, Massachusetts, which they were told would then be sold for a profit but instead were used to buy property Riquier already owned, according to the complaint filed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin.
Riquier tricked his victims into thinking that the money they invested in the Rowley Fund to buy the property would allow them to protect their money and get it back, with a return, in four to eight years, the regulator claimed.
After 26 years of waiting, however, none of the 30 investors — many of whom were elderly — received any of their money back, let alone a return, according to the complaint.
"Riquier's scheme has been going on for so long that several of the original investors and clients have died while the remaining elderly Massachusetts investors have not seen a penny returned on their 26-year-old investment," Galvin's office charged.
Riquier raised $730,000 from investors who bought units of ownership in the Rowley Fund at the price of $5,000 per unit.
In addition, Riquier allegedly borrowed more than $800,000 from clients in the form of personal loans, an activity prohibited under state and federal securities laws. The misconduct began in the early 1990s, investigators claimed.
The regulator also blasted Riquier's employer, United Planners, for failing to supervise Riquier during his 26 years as a broker-dealer agent and investment advisor representative there.
"Despite knowing that Riquier was conducting outside business with his clients, United Planners failed to perform even the most basic of due diligence which would have revealed the extent of Riquier's fraudulent activity," the regulator said.
Galvin's office, which named United Planners as a respondent in the complaint, shamed the firm for hiring Riquier's son-in-law to monitor and supervise Riquier's activities.
Riquier, a CFP and chartered life insurance underwriter, produced over $1.2 million annually for United Planners.
Riquier did not respond to emails or voice messages left with the Retirement Financial Center, the United Planners-affiliated investment advisory firm that he leads as president.
United Planners also did not return a voice message seeking comment on the charges.
The securities watchdog is seeking an order requiring both Riquier and United Planners to cease and desist from the alleged misconduct. It is also seeking to revoke Riquier's registrations as an investment advisor agent and broker-dealer and an order requiring him to pay restitution to compensate investors for their losses under the scheme, among other remedies.