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Business Observer Saturday, Jun. 27, 2020 1 week ago

Sarasota-Bradenton area insurance agents charged in $6.3M Ponzi scheme

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Authorities accuse defendants of targeting elderly victims.

A pair of Sarasota-Bradenton area licensed insurance agents — one who goes by the name the Annuity King on some online ads — have been charged in a $6.3 million Ponzi scheme that allegedly targeted elderly victims to liquidate traditional investments and invest with their company.

Federal authorities unsealed an indictment June 26 charging Phillip Roy Wasserman 63, of Sarasota, and Kenneth Murry Rossman 62, of Bradenton, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, as well as substantive counts of wire fraud and mail fraud. A former lawyer, Wasserman, at one point had insurance offices on Main Street in downtown Sarasota and Professional Parkway in Lakewood Ranch. In addition to being an insurance agent, Rossman, according to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records, is also a CPA with an office at a residence on 213th Street East in East County, off State Road 70.

The indictment, in addition to the charges, also notifies the defendants the government will seek a money judgment of at least $6.3 million, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office. That’s the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct, the release states.

Wasserman, authorities contend, spent a significant amount of the victim-investors’ money to finance a lavish lifestyle. Expenses allegedly included luxury residences, high-end vehicles, jet skis, jewelry, entertainment, gambling, retail shopping, home improvements, personal insurance and more. He also used proceeds, authorities say, for the benefit of family members.     

Both Wasserman and Rossman, the indictment alleges, made false and fraudulent misrepresentations and concealed material information in order to convince elderly victim-investors to put their money into Wasserman’s new insurance venture, “FastLife.” Those misrepresentations took place between Aug. 16 and the date of the indictment, court records state.

“Some victims were persuaded to liquidate traditional investments, such as annuities, and/or to borrow funds against existing life insurance policies to generate cash to invest in the venture,” the indictment states. “These victims were not told about surrender fees and other costs associated with the liquidations and, Rossman prepared income tax returns for victim-investors in a manner designed to conceal negative personal tax consequences that resulted from the liquidations from both the victim-investors and the Internal Revenue Service.”

Wasserman allegedly paid Rossman a percentage of the victim-investors’ money as compensation for his role in the conspiracy, the indictment states. Wasserman also used victim-investors’ money to make payments to earlier victim-investors in the FastLife venture, as well to as victim-investors in his earlier hedge fund and real estate fund ventures.

Billy Ray Cyrus was named a FastLife spokesman in 2018.

FastLife’s internet ads and other places online are where Wasserman sometimes billed himself as the Annuities King. The FastLife entity also had some brushes with celebrity endorsements. In a September 2016 Facebook post, for example, on the page Phillip Wasserman Annuities, FastLife stated “baseball legend Pete Rose will be cutting his radio spots for us in the next couple of weeks and they will begin running nationally in October.”

And in July 2018, the company, in press release and later a story that appeared on Billboard's website announced country music “icon” Billy Ray Cyrus as “its newest celebrity spokesperson.”

“With FastLife’s underlying mission to help people protect their loved ones through insurance,” Wasserman said in the July 31, 2018 statement, “we couldn’t think of a better person to be the face of our company and we’re very excited to be working with him.”

Wasserman and Rossman each face a maximum penalty of 20 years on each of the six counts charged in the indictment if convicted on all counts. The Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation investigated the case.

 

 

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