A plea deal in the fraud case of a former financial adviser collapsed after federal investigators alleged he was trying to sell a Cape Cod house and a collection of wines worth 100,000 $.
The excluded former LPL financial adviser who withdrew from the plea deal now faces five more counts of fraud and identity theft. James K. Couture allegedly defrauded at least seven customers for nearly $ 2.9 million over 11 years. He was on the verge of securing a relatively lenient sentence by pleading guilty to four counts of wire fraud and identity theft, court records show. But that changed when a July 6 motion said Couture “warns and no longer wishes to drop the indictment and / or plead guilty.”
Two weeks after rejecting the deal, a new indictment charged him with one additional count of wire fraud, three more counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of fraud investment advisor. Authorities also issued a restraining order prohibiting Couture, 43, from selling two houses, five cars and fine wines without any agreements in place to ensure the proceeds go for return and forfeiture. A judge approved Couture’s petition after federal prosecutors in Boston wrote they had no objection to the defense withdrawing from the deal.
“The defendant has now violated his plea agreement and has informed the court and the government that he will not waive the indictment or plead guilty to the information as previously agreed,” wrote Deputy US Attorney Kriss Basil in the prosecution case for July 7. “In this case, the government will proceed as it would have if the defendant had not entered into the plea deal.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted Couture to abandon the deal. He and his lawyer did not respond to phone calls and an email seeking comment.
In an email, LPL spokeswoman Lauren Hoyt-Williams said the company could not discuss the fraud allegations and whether the company had paid settlements to victims seeking damages while the investigation was underway.
When fired, the company cited allegations that Couture “tampered with credentials, account balances and distributions in [a] customer account statement ”, maintained“ mixed ”customer accounts and used an“ unapproved email address ”, according to at FINRA BrokerCheck.
“LPL fired Mr. Couture in 2020,” Hoyt-Williams said. “The cabinet takes this matter very seriously and is cooperating fully with the SEC and law enforcement.”
the SECOND and federal authorities indicted Couture on June 1 in parallel cases filed on the same day as the plea deal awaiting judge approval in the criminal proceedings. Ten days later, federal prosecutors filed an emergency motion for a writ and restraining order after learning that Couture had an agreement to sell a $ 600,000 home in Dennis, Massachusetts, the following week. Investigators have listed other assets that they believe should only be sold for restitution or confiscation: a 1967 Ford Mustang, a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette, a 2014 Porsche 911, a 2014 Mercedes S550, a 2015 Cadillac Escalade, and a home in Sutton, Massachusetts, The Shows Depot. Judge Indira Talwani approved the request the same day.
“The government believes that the defendant does not have sufficient funds to pay the expected restitution, fines and forfeiture that will be ordered, and there is a significant risk that the defendant has dissipated, protected or attempted to dissipate and protect assets. government that could be used to partially satisfy early restitution, fines and confiscation, ”the file said.
The restraining order and the breach of the plea agreement gave a unique twist to a case involving allegations that closely resemble other adviser fraud cases.
Between 2009 and 2020, Couture embezzled his clients’ money through a series of fake investment funds and account statements that showed their accounts were appreciating in value even as he liquidated assets when ‘They were asking for withdrawals, says the indictment of July 22. Although his firm, The Private Wealth Management Group, has offices in Worcester and Springfield, he formed a New Hampshire-based company called Legacy Financial Group and sold clients fake funds with names like “LFG Taxable” and “LFG PE Fund IV,” say investigators.
The indictment includes the confiscation of $ 2.87 million which prosecutors say is “derived from proceeds attributable to the offenses,” the document said. An FBI agent arrested Couture on July 23, according to court documents. Authorities released him on bail that day on condition that he surrender all passports and restrict his movement to the continental United States.