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Investment adviser convicted of wire fraud and money laundering | U.S. District
A long-time Seattle investment adviser was convicted today by a federal jury of 32 criminal counts including wire fraud, money laundering and investment adviser fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Mark R. Spangler, 58, formerly of Seattle, (who now resides in Portland, Oregon) promised his clients that he would protect their life’s savings by investing it in safe investments. Instead, Spangler diverted their money – without their knowledge or consent – to two risky start-up companies that he controlled and in which he had a significant financial stake.
The jury deliberated for two days following the three week trial. U. S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez will sentence Spangler on February 6, 2014.
“Mark Spangler gambled with other people’s money without their knowledge – he defrauded friends and family members who trusted him with their life’s savings,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This defendant used his position of trust as a tool to cheat his clients out of money for their mortgages, their children and grandchildren’s education, their retirement and plans for charitable giving.”
The evidence at trial demonstrated that Spangler repeatedly violated his fiduciary duty as an investment advisor by hiding where his clients’ money was invested, and by providing them with false account statements which, among other things, drastically inflated the value of their investments. Spangler told his clients that their assets were worth over $73 million. However, after Spangler ran out of money and put his business into receivership, only approximately $28 million was recovered for the victims, resulting in a loss of approximately $50 million.
Many of the investors who testified in court described how they were told their funds were conservatively invested in publicly traded companies and in bonds. Spangler provided them false quarterly account statements fraudulently inflating the value of their accounts and how the money was invested. When some investors sought to liquidate their holdings Spangler ran a Ponzi scheme using new money from investors to pay out the other investors. Eventually, Spangler was unable to raise money to cover all the liquidation requests and was forced to place his investment business into receivership. At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that federal law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at Spangler’s residence on September 23, 2011, disrupting Spangler’s plans to flee the jurisdiction. Spangler had purchased airline tickets for Ecuador with his wife, Luanne Renfrow, and they were planning to leave on September 25, 2011. The couple had also placed their million dollar Capitol Hill home and his $890,000 yacht up for sale when the search warrant was executed.
“The FBI is pleased that Mr. Spangler will be held accountable for hurting people who trusted him,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Laura M. Laughlin of the FBI Seattle office. “Mr. Spangler exploited clients who specifically chose him for a reputation of honesty and integrity, then he constructed layers of deceit to mask his exploitation. The FBI has been proud to partner with the USAO, IRS, and SEC in ending Mr. Spangler's callous criminal activity.”
“This case is a clear example of how greed triumphed over friendship, judgment and honesty,” said Kenneth J. Hines, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office, IRS Criminal Investigation. “The title “Investment Advisor” is used by professionals all over the country as they assist their clients in securing their financial future. But when a fraudster uses that title to prey on the dreams of investors, federal law enforcement will hold them accountable. The jury’s message today to Mr. Spangler was, ‘guilty.”
During the course of his scheme, Spangler and his company collected over $4 million in investment advisor fees from his clients and over $1 million in fees from the two startup companies. Spangler also stood to gain approximately 20% of any profits from the investments he made in the two startup companies if they turned out to be successful. At the very same time Spangler was losing tens of millions of his clients’ money, Spangler used client fees to live a life of luxury. Spangler traveled the world, purchased an $890,000 yacht, and a $20,000 engagement ring.
The case was investigated by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carl Blackstone, Mike Lang, and Francis Franze-Nakamura.