A grand jury sitting in Monmouth County last month indicted 40-year old Fair Haven resident Stephen Severio. The indictment contained charges of second-degree theft by deception, commercial bribery and misappropriation of funds. Second-degree criminal charges in New Jersey each carry up to ten years in prison.
The defendant was a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch in Red Bank, where he allegedly stole money from his own clients. The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office began investigating Severio last year after being tipped off by Merrill Lynch’s Internal Fraud Unit.
The first red flag Merrill Lynch noticed was that Severio was “selling away” existing Merrill Lynch clients. Selling away is a term used in the financial industry for persuading your own firm’s clients to withdraw funds from their accounts and invest them elsewhere. This practice is against industry standards and Merrill Lynch internal regulations.
Severio allegedly began selling his clients away in 2007, promising them a 15%-20% return on their new investments. 26 former clients believed Severio, paying him more than $500,000. Rather than investing these funds, Severio, in Bernie Madoff fashion, simply cashed the client’s checks at a check cashing business in Monmouth County and kept the money for himself.
If you believe you may have been defrauded by your investment firm, or if you have been arrested, accused, or convicted of a financial crime, theft by deception, or fraud, contact an experienced Monmouth County criminal defense attorney immediately.