By Shereen Siewert
A Wausau investment agent who defrauded clients of an estimated $1.9 million is facing decades in federal prison, after the U.S. Dept. of Justice filed criminal charges against him this week.
Anthony “Tony” Liddle, who owned Prosper Wealth Management in Rhinelander and Wausau, has already been barred from the industry. The allegations against him were the focus of a comprehensive WSAW investigative report in December. More than a dozen clients, many of them elderly, lost money in Liddle’s scheme.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a federal complaint that details Liddle’s actions from June 2019 through May 2022. In the complaint, the SEC alleges Liddle lied to clients, recommending they sell existing securities and enter “safer” investments – when in reality he sought liquid assets as the first step in his fraudulent scheme.
In one example cited, Liddle in December 2021 allegedly went to a nursing home to meet with a client, where he handwrote notes outlining her investment plan. In those discussions, he allegedly guaranteed the safety of a bond he knew to be high risk and promised that the client could rely on a monthly interest payment from the investment. Liddle then took a check for $110,000 – but never invested the woman’s money.
Liddle is also accused of directing clients to send money, either by wire or check, to his management firm to purchase new investments. But the firm did not maintain custody of advisory client funds, ad there was no legitimate reason for clients to send funds directly to the firm. He then opened a bank account in PWM’s name, the SEC alleges, and hid the account from his other employees.
The secret account was used to deposit advisory client funds that he had no intention of investing. Instead, Liddle stole the principal to fund his lifestyle.
“Liddle’s lies led many of the defrauded clients to believe they were
receiving regular and reliable returns from their investment portfolios,” the SEC complaint states. “The sobering truth was that – month in and month out – their principal was gone and what little interest they received was a lie to cover Liddle’s theft.”
The losses, according to the SEC, were devastating and in some cases, unrecoverable.
One day after the SEC complaint was filed with the U.S. Western District Court of Wisconsin, the U.S. Dept. of Justice filed felony fraud and money laundering charges against Liddle. WSAW reports Liddle pleaded guilty to both charges, which carry a maximum penalty of up to 40 years in prison, $740,000 in fines, and restitution that will undoubtedly include the roughly $1.9 million funneled from his various victims.
Federal court records show Liddle filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in November. In his filing, he lists more than $3 million in debt, including more than $400,000 in business and personal credit card debt, more than $200,000 in money owed to a local landlord for his Wausau office rent, and restitution to 13 individuals. The list includes more than $450,000 owed to a Green Bay woman and $281,500 owed to a Schofield woman.
Criminal fines and restitution are not dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings.