A retired music industry executive and his wife have sued former investment broker Hector A. May and Securities America Inc. for $18 million, claiming that May pretended to be their friend while secretly emptying their brokerage accounts.
Robert and Judith Jamieson of Riverside, Connecticut, filed the complaint Feb. 26 in federal court in White Plains.
For 17 years, they allege, May, with the assistance of his daughter, Vania May Bell, “repeatedly provided investment advice designed to make it easier for him to steal more.”Securities America failed to properly supervise May and “ignored stark red flags that were identified by its own compliance department,” the complaint states, that “would have exposed the scheme in 2003.”
Securities America spokesman Chris Clemens said the company, based in La Vista, Nebraska, does not comment on legal or regulatory matters related to individuals who are no longer affiliated with the firm. A message requesting comment from May was returned as undeliverable.
May, of Orangeburg in Rockland County, has accepted responsibility for his actions in other legal forums.
Last June, he and his wife, Sonia, consented to a freeze on their personal property and financial accounts, as well as on assets of May’s Executive Compensation Planners business in New City, pending resolution of a criminal investigation.
In December he was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and investment adviser fraud. He pleaded guilty and he is scheduled to be sentenced April 26 in federal court.
May also has consented to forfeiting $11,452,185.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint in December against May and his daughter, Vania, of Montvale, New Jersey, who was controller of his firm. The SEC accuses them of misappropriating at least $7.9 million from 15 clients in a Ponzi scheme.
May has consented to SEC demands to cease violating securities laws and to forfeit ill-gotten gains. The charges against Bell are pending.
The Jamiesons claim that it was their complaints that exposed the fraud.
Beginning in 1970, Robert Jamieson held executive positions at CBS Records, Polygram, BMG and RCA Music Group. He developed and signed superstars, such as Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews and Christina Aguilera.
Jamieson’s father, Raymond, knew May as a member of the Rockland County Country Club, where the elder Jamieson worked as a golf pro for 25 years. His father set up a trust fund for his grandchildren in 1998, according to the complaint, at May’s urging.
Then Robert and Judith Jamieson hired May and opened brokerage accounts at Securities America.
They claim that May pretended “to act not just as their trusted financial adviser, but as their close friend.”
He attended the graduations and weddings of their three children. When Robert Jamieson suffered a stroke in 2015, May visited him in the hospital.
But beginning in 2001, the complaint states, May and his daughter, Bell, devised a scheme.
May advised the Jamiesons to open 20 brokerage accounts with Securities America. He directed them to regularly wire funds to a custodial account at Executive Compensation Planners, to purchase municipal bonds.
But there was no custodial account, the complaint states. The funds went into May’s company account, were transferred internally and were recorded as “loans payable.”
Then May and Bell allegedly sent statements that overstated account balances.
The SEC complaint describes the same scheme. Instead of buying bonds, the SEC said, May used clients’ money to pay salaries for himself and his daughter and for personal expenses, including “a limousine driver, country club dues, home remodeling, travel, personal loans to friends, political contributions, a vacation home, and furs and jewelry for his wife.”
The Jamiesons claim they deposited $15 million with May, from 1998 to 2015. By the end of 2017, the actual value of their Securities America account was about $50,000.
Securities America could have stopped most of the losses, they allege. In 2003, the company’s compliance department emailed May and questioned withdrawals totaling $350,000 and the sale of a mutual fund that created a $4,000 deferred sales charge.
May allegedly responded that the withdrawals were for personal reasons and that the Jamiesons were unhappy with the mutual fund and were well aware of the sales charges.
In fact, the complaint states, the $350,000 was stolen money.
The Jamiesons allege that Securities America did not communicate directly with them, and the firm had collected more than $500,000 in fees from them.
The scheme began to unravel in 2017, when Judith Jamieson thought May was likely to retire soon and she began discussing the possibility of moving the investments to another brokerage firm.
May dissuaded her for months, but early last year she disregarded his advice and arranged a transfer of assets.
The new firm informed her that the accounts at Securities America “held little to no assets.”
Securities America fired May last spring.
The Jamiesons accuse May and Securities America of fraud, concealment, breach of fiduciary duties, negligence, unjust enrichment and other charges. They are demanding $18 million.
The lawsuit, they said, is also motivated by questions.
Why did May betray them? Why did Securities America fail to detect the scheme? Why didn’t the brokerage firm alert the family to red flags?
“The Jamieson family brings this action both to recover its financial losses,” the complaint states, “and to seek answers to those questions.”
The Jamiesons are represented by attorney Justin M. Sher of Sher Tremonte LLP in Manhattan.