A former Edward Jones advisor was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and ordered to pay over $1.2 million for a fraud scheme in which he used client funds to remodel his home and pay for other expenses, according to federal prosecutors.
Bernard Parker, 56, also filed false federal tax returns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western district of Pennsylvania. He allegedly spent money from at least 22 clients for home renovations, car payments, and healthcare bills for his father-in-law, according to the SEC, which also pressed charges against Parker.
“I am totally responsible,” Parker told a judge during his sentencing in federal court on Monday, according to the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. “These people liked me and trusted me and I should have respected that.”
Parker worked for Edward Jones in Indiana, Pennsylvania, from 2006 and 2014, during the time of the alleged fraud. Edward Jones discharged him for allegedly selling securities without company approval and misappropriating the funds, according to a note in Parker's FINRA BrokerCheck record.
Parker became a financial advisor with First American National Securities in 1989, per BrokerCheck. He joined Edward Jones from Beaconsfield Financial Services in 2006.
While at Edward Jones, Parker raised over $1.2 million from his longstanding clients through Parker Financial Services, his side business, prosecutors say. He promised clients he would invest their money in tax lien certificates, mainly in Florida, Arizona, and Colorado, as well as municipal bonds and other assets. But he instead diverted most of the money to pay for his personal expenses and made about $188,000 in purported interest payments to earlier investors, according to the SEC complaint.
When investors inquired about the tax liens, Parker showed them computer printouts of vacant lots and homes, which he claimed were part of the program.
Parked was convicted of securities fraud, mail fraud and tax violations in June following a trial before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton in Pittsburgh.
An Edward Jones spokesman says that although Parker’s illegal actions occurred without the firm’s knowledge, Edward Jones reimbursed the clients for their losses and fully cooperated with regulators and the Department of Justice. The court's docket entry regarding sentencing does not state that Edward Jones will be reimbursed this cost by Parker.
Parker is in custody. His attorney declined to comment on the sentencing.
Parker was barred from FINRA in February 2016 for failing to respond to multiple requests for information.
He will be placed under three years of supervised release after his prison term ends.