May 17, 2012 / 10:06 PM / 6 years ago

Fraud charges for former financial advisory chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal grand jury indicted a former chairman of a national financial planning association with fraud on Thursday for funneling more than $46 million of his clients’ money into risky ventures he co-founded.

Mark Spangler, a former chairman of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), diverted the funds, which clients expected to be invested in publicly traded instruments, into his technology ventures instead, the Department of Justice said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also announced parallel civil charges.

“These investors lost millions to a man they trusted to safeguard their resources. We are working closely with the SEC to ensure Mr. Spangler is held accountable for his fraud,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

Spangler’s indictment is not the first black eye for a former executive of NAPFA, a group representing fee-only financial advisors.

In 2009, the SEC charged James Putman, a past president of the association, with accepting $1.24 million in kickbacks on client investment pools. A federal court awarded the SEC summary judgment last month, and forced Putman to pay a total penalty of $1.6 million.

Spangler’s alleged fraud began in 2003 and continued through 2011, according to the SEC.

Spangler and his advisory firm, The Spangler Group (TSG), diverted funds from several private investment funds he managed into two cash-poor technology companies, prosecutors said.

The two companies in turn paid TSG “financial and operational support” fees of $830,000, essentially from customer funds, prosecutors said.

One of the companies went bankrupt, after receiving nearly $42 million from the investment funds, the SEC said.

Spangler only disclosed the relationship in 2011, when he placed TSG and the funds he managed into state court receivership.

Spangler faces 23 criminal counts including fraud and money laundering. He also faces civil charges and is set to appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday.

A lawyer for Spangler had no immediate comment. A NAPFA representative said Spangler had chaired the organization 14 years ago and was suspended from its membership after the initial allegations last year.

Additional reporting by Aruna Viswanatha in Washington and Jed Horowitz in New York; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Tim Dobbyn

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