VERMILION, Ohio– A man who was a certified financial planner and self-employed tax preparer was charged with financial crimes that resulted in nearly 100 clients losing more than $4.4 million over 10 years. That’s according to Steven Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Dettlebach said Richard A. Zakarian, 47, was charged with two counts each of wire fraud and mail fraud and one count of making and subscribing false income tax returns.
Authorities said Zakarian is accused of two schemes: one was to defraud investment clients; another was to defraud clients whose payroll taxes he handled through a company known as Ben Franklin Payroll Service.
In a press release, Dettlebach said, “This defendant is accused of taking advantage of trust of dozens of clients, which ranged from homeless shelters and nursery schools to retirees and those with disabilities.”
He said many of the payroll tax victims were churches, charities and other non-profit organizations.
The information filed in U.S. District Court said from September 2002 through August 2012, Zakarian devised a scheme to defraud clients by inducing them to invest their retirement funds and other savings through him.
He is accused of primarily targeting clients from his tax-preparation business when they received their tax refunds or sought his financial advice.
The FBI, the IRS, the Lorain Police Department and the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office; along with the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Securities all took part in the investigation.