A former investment banker and Glen Head resident allegedly swindled friends and neighbors out of more than $1 million in a Ponzi scheme, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced this week.
Rand Heckler, 55, was arraigned Wednesday before Judge Karen Moroney on counts of grand larceny in the second degree, grand larceny in the third degree, and scheming to defraud in the first degree. If convicted of the top count, the D.A.’s office says he will face a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.
Singas said that beginning in 2015, Heckler allegedly recommended to his friend and friend’s son that they invest in a hedge fund of stocks and securities that he was managing. The offer was only to be for Heckler’s closest 15 to 20 friends and associates.
The office says that between December of 2015 and January of 2020, the victims wrote Heckler a total of 24 checks, amounting to $755,159. During that time, he allegedly showed them statements with the names of the stocks and the hedge fund account’s current value. He also allegedly showed them false trade confirmations as proof that the stock had been purchased.
In January 2020, the friend’s son, who has power of attorney for his father, allegedly asked Heckler for $100,000 from his father’s account, part of which was for his children’s trust fund. In February 2020, after several weeks of delay, he received the $100,000 via a wire to his bank account and was allegedly told the money was from the sale of shares in the hedge fund.
However, the D.A.’s office discovered in May 2020, after receiving the case from the Securities and Exchange Commission, that the money was allegedly wired directly from another victim in February.
That victim, the defendant’s neighbor, allegedly went to the bank with Hecklerin February 2020 believing she was wiring a $100,000 life insurance payment from her deceased husband into the hedge fund, but she was wiring the money directly to the first victim’s son.
As this was going on, the neighbor believed she would receive monthly dividend payments from her investment and did not know there was a problem until investigators from the D.A.’s office contacted her.
During the investigation, at least two other victims were discovered to have been allegedly defrauded by Heckler in a similar matter. He is also alleged to have solicited additional victims by cold-calling people in other states and getting them to agree to invest.
Heckler allegedly spent the money on his mortgage, a country club membership, credit card payments and daily expenses like dry cleaning and phone bills.
In total, he stands accused of stealing $1,004,159 from four victims.
“Rand Heckler allegedly duped friends, neighbors, and complete strangers into investing their savings in a Ponzi scheme that fueled his extravagant lifestyle,” Singas said in a statement. “The defendant allegedly used his clients’ money – more than $1 million – to pay for his mortgage, country club membership, and other expenses. Investment brokers have a responsibility to their clients, but based on these allegations, Rand Heckler cared only about his bottom line.”
The NCDA also intends to charge his corporation Rand Heckler, Inc. at a later date.
Senior Investigative Counsel Betty Rodriguez of Singas’ Financial Crime Bureau and Rebecca Winer of the Civil Forfeiture Bureau are prosecuting this case. Michael Finkelstein, Esq. of Hempstead-based Jacoby & Meyers, LLP represents the defendant.
A 2019 report from the Sonn Law Firm, which represents consumers and victims of investor fraud, claims that over the course of his career Heckler worked for a total of four firms that had been expelled from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and that he had been accused by clients of unsuitability and unauthorized trading, among other things, in 2002, 2004 and 2007. The law firm also claims that FINRA also barred Heckler in June 2019 after he did not respond to an investigation following a customer filing a complaint alleging unsuitable recommendations, misrepresentations, and possible misappropriation
Heckler was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on Nov. 13.
The Glen Head resident is the latest resident to be charged or sentenced for financial crimes, following Frankie Russo of Roslyn, one in a group charged with attempting to defraud lottery winners of over $107 million; Daniel Kamensky of Roslyn, a hedge fund founder charged with creating an alleged scheme to profit off the bankruptcy of luxury retailer Neiman Marcus; Michael Kohn of Sands Point, a former lawyer charged with stealing $150,000 from three of his clients; Leslie Scharf of Roslyn, who pleaded guilty to grand larceny for stealing $6 million from retail company Shoplet, for which he served as general counsel and senior vice president of business development; and Paul Rinfret, formerly of Manhasset, who was sentenced to 63 years in prison for organizing a $19 million Ponzi scheme.