FLORIDA – A jury has convicted a Florida insurance agent of defrauding elderly investors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida (USAO) announced this week.
Following a six-week trial, United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg said a jury returned guilty verdicts on nine counts of the superseding indictment charging Phillip Roy Wasserman, 66, of Sarasota, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and substantive counts of wire fraud and mail fraud.
According to the USAO, Wasserman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud counts. The United States is also seeking a money judgment in the amount of at least $6.3 million, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct. Before trial, the tax counts in the superseding indictment were ordered to be tried separately at the request of Wasserman.
On July 21, 2021, Wasserman’s codefendant, Kenneth Rossman, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and aiding and abetting the preparation of a false and fraudulent income tax return. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8, 2023.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Wasserman, a former lawyer and licensed insurance agent, and Rossman, a Florida certified public accountant, and licensed insurance agent, made false and fraudulent misrepresentations and concealed material information to convince elderly victim-investors to put their money into Wasserman’s new insurance venture, “FastLife.”
Some victim-investors were allegedly persuaded to liquidate traditional investments such as annuities and/or to borrow funds against existing life insurance policies to generate cash to invest in the venture. Reportedly, the victim-investors were not told about surrender fees and other costs associated with said liquidations or about negative personal tax consequences resulting from liquidations.
Prosecutors said Wasserman paid Rossman a percentage of the victim-investors money as compensation for his role in the conspiracy. Wasserman also reportedly used victim-investors’ money to make payments to earlier victim-investors in the FastLife venture, as well as to other earlier creditors.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Wasserman spent a significant amount of the victim-investors’ money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a luxury personal residence, a beach house on Casey Key, Tampa Bay Lightning season and playoff tickets, concerts and other shows, vehicles, jet skis, jewelry, personal celebrity entertainment, gambling, retail shopping, home improvements, personal insurance, and a host of other expenses for his personal benefit and the benefit of family members.
The evidence also established that Wasserman took numerous affirmative steps to evade payment of more than $900,000 in taxes due and owed. Wasserman also failed to disclose a multitude of civil judgments and other debts pending against him at the time he solicited victim-investors to put their money into FastLife, said the USAO.
In addition, Wasserman reportedly took steps to conceal FastLife’s mounting business debts to various business vendors and service providers, employees and independent contractors, and victim-investors. The investigation revealed that Wasserman had created a second set of books and fabricated a compensation agreement, reportedly to convince investigators that he had not made improper personal use of victim-investors’ funds.
Moreover, prosecutors said Wasserman urged one witness to lie to investigators, attempted to dissuade several victim-investors from cooperating with law enforcement, and requested that one victim-investor make a baseless complaint against an investigator.
In a further effort to thwart the investigation, the USAO said Wasserman falsely and fraudulently represented that he had an audit from a highly regarded financial services firm that would show neither he nor FastLife had committed any wrongdoing. In fact, Wasserman had never even engaged the firm to perform an audit and never received any final work product of any kind from the firm, said the USAO.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Assistant United States Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Rachel K. Jones are prosecuting it.