Former Cetera Advisor Gets Five Years in Prison for Defrauding Clients

A Florida-based financial advisor will spend five years in federal prison for his role in defrauding clients, as well as a federally insured bank, and will also have to pay more than $1 million, the Justice Department announced last week.

David Aaron Rockwell, of Cape Coral, Fla., originally pleaded guilty to charges on counts of wire and bank fraud on Jan. 14 of this year. Though the indictment against Rockwell did not name the financial institution he worked for, his FINRA’s BrokerCheck profile indicates that he was most recently affiliated with Cetera Advisor Services from 2015 until his registration was terminated in November 2018 after he was charged with a felony for aggravated stalking.

According to the indictment, Rockwell managed clients’ investment and retirement accounts, with access to their bank and investment accounts. At the same time, Rockwell owned and operated Gralyn Financial Services, which was ostensibly “a financial service that handled real estate funds.” Rockwell’s clients weren’t aware of his involvement in this separate entity.

Starting in Oct. 2017, Rockwell began misappropriating clients’ funds for his own use, while also applying for dual $700,000 lines of credit at TriState Capital Bank in the names of two of his clients (unnamed in the indictment). In securing the loans, Rockwell forged the clients’ signatures on the applications. He also used client assets from their accounts with Cetera as collateral in case the loans defaulted, all without asking or alerting those clients.

The DOJ also accused Rockwell of getting one of his clients to use $400,000 in funds in what Rockwell claimed was an investment in low-income housing in the state, but the advisor ended up using the funds to pay for his personal credit cards and to purchase a home.

According to Rockwell’s BrokerCheck profile, his experience in the industry goes back to 2000 and includes multi-year stints with SunTrust Investment Services, Fifth Third Securities and Comerica Securities. He was barred from the industry by the regulatory agency in Feb. 2020. 

Cetera did not return a request for comment as of press time.

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