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September 9, 2022

Former Worcester investment adviser pleads guilty to stealing $3M from clients

jonpetitt via Flickr The John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse (center) is the main courthouse for the U.S. District Court in Boston.

James Kenneth Couture, of Sutton, pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges related to $2.8 million in stolen funds from his six clients over 11 years, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Couture pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of investment adviser fraud, and one count of witness tampering.

According to the DOJ, Couture invested clients’ money in fraudulent mutual funds then paid returns using other clients’ assets, forging the clients’ signatures on documents in the process. 

After being charged in 2021 for those crimes, Couture engaged in witness tampering by creating fake documents purported to be for his clients’ accounts and providing false information to at least one victim in the case for approximately six months.

Each wire fraud charge provides for up to 20 years in prison. Charges of aggravated identity theft each carry a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison. The charge of witness tampering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. And the charge of investment adviser fraud carries a sentence of up to five years.

Couture also faces potential financial penalties and supervised release time.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 11.

Couture was a registered investment adviser operating in Worcester, affiliated with LPL Financial LLC, which has an office in Boston, from 2009 until June 2020 when his employment was terminated after the allegations of misappropriation, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. 

According to FINRA, Couture has settled with four former clients in 2020 and 2021 for a total of $3,175,179.

Registered financial advisers are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and have a legal responsibility to act in their clients’ best interest.

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