An Acton man was sentenced March 17 in connection with a long-running scheme to steal money from clients of his investment advisor business, in which he fraudulently obtained more than $3.8 million from more than 20 clients.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Gerald Allan Eaton, 51, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to 102 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Eaton is also ordered to pay $3,824,930 in restitution and an additional $1,698,701 in pre-judgment interest. In September 2020, Eaton pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Eaton was a certified financial planner, doing business under the name Heritage Financial Group, with an office in Acton. In that capacity, Eaton invested his clients' funds in securities and various insurance products, including life insurance policies and annuities. From at least 1999 through October 2019, Eaton stole millions of dollars from clients' accounts. He did so primarily by selling securities, insurance policies and annuities in clients' accounts, and causing the proceeds to be sent to accounts he owned or controlled.
As part of his scheme, Eaton forged clients' signatures on checks and documents, or caused clients to sign documents by falsely representing that the proceeds of transactions would be used for the clients' benefit. Eaton also falsely represented to the brokerage firm with which he was affiliated, and to insurance companies, that the transactions he requested on his clients' behalf were for the benefit of those clients.
In fact, Eaton caused proceeds to be sent to his own credit card accounts to pay his personal and family expenses, and to his home equity line of credit. In order to avoid detection, Eaton defrauded clients he knew were unlikely to notice what he had done, either because they were elderly or in poor mental or physical condition.
In September 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) entered an order barring Eaton from the securities industry based on the same conduct.