Oren Eugene Sullivan, a former broker with New York Life Securities, was a master at pulling the wool over investors’ eyes. For decades, the former South Carolina broker fleeced investors out of millions of dollars in an elaborate Ponzi scheme. What makes Sullivan’s case truly shocking, however, are the victims Sullivan allegedly preyed upon. Many were more than 80 years of age, mentally and physically impaired, widows, church members and/or long-time family friends. One investor who gave Sullivan $70,000 suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Another investor was confined to a wheelchair, her legs amputated. She invested tens of thousands of dollars with Sullivan.
In August 2009, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) permanently barred Sullivan for life from working in the securities industry. On Jan. 4, 2010, Sullivan pleaded guilty to one felony count of mail fraud in connection to operating a Ponzi scheme.
Sullivan apparently ran his scam from 1998 to October 2008, obtaining money from investors for his personal use while leading clients to believe they were investing in promissory notes or other legitimate financial products issued by New York Life and its affiliates.
The scheme came crashing down after one of Sullivan’s elderly customers and her daughter discovered that he had misappropriated $10,000 given to him for the purchase of variable annuities. Instead of investing the money as promised, Sullivan used the funds to pay for his son’s wedding. Over a period of approximately three years, the customer had never received a statement showing the purchase or the investment performance of the variable annuities.
Most of Sullivan’s victims had previously invested in one or more NYLife products sold by the former South Carolina broker. In exchange for the money he took from customers, Sullivan usually provided a one-page note that outlined the amount of principal and the promised annual interest rate. That rate ranged from 6% to 12%.
In total, federal authorities say Sullivan misappropriated $3.7 million from investors.
As for Sullivan, he faces a maximum fine of $250,000 and the possibility of up to 20 years in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 2010.