A former investment broker from Glen Head has been arrested and charged with swindling friends and neighbors out of more than $1 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Rand Heckler, 55, was arraigned Oct. 1 before Nassau District Court Judge Karen Moroney on three counts of second- and third-de-gree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud. He was released and is due back in court on Nov. 13.
If convicted, Heckler faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.
“Rand Heckler allegedly duped friends, neighbors and complete stran-gers into investing their savings in a Ponzi scheme that fueled his extravagant lifestyle,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline 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 district attorney’s investigation thus far has been wholly inadequate, and they’ve jumped to conclusions,” said Heckler’s attorney, Mich-ael Finkelstein.
His firm, he said, plans to conduct its own investigation into the allegations. When the two investigations are concluded, he said, he is confident the charges will be dismissed.
According to Singas, Heckler recommended to a friend and the friend’s son that they invest in a hedge fund of stocks and securities he was managing in 2015. The offer was only to be for Heckler’s closest 15 to 20 friends and associates.
Between December 2015 and January 2020, the victims wrote Heckler 24 checks, totaling $755,159, Singas said. During that time, he allegedly showed them statements with the names of the stocks and the hedge fund account’s current value. Heckler also allegedly showed them false trade confirmations to show the stock had been purchased.
In January 2020, the friend’s son, who has power of attorney for his father, asked Heckler for $100,000 from his father’s account, part of which was for his children’s trust fund. In February, 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.
Prosecutors said that in May, after they received the case from the Securities and Exchange Commission, they discovered that the money had been wired directly from another victim. That victim, Heckler’s neighbor, went to the bank with Heckler in February, believing she was wiring a $100,000 life insurance payment from her deceased husband into the hedge fund. She was, however, wiring the money directly to the first victim’s son, Singas said.
As this was going on, prosecutors said, the victim believed she would receive monthly dividend payments from her investment and did not know there was a problem until investigators from the district attorney’s office contacted her. During the investigation, they said, at least two other victims were discovered to have been defrauded by Heckler.
He is alleged to have solicited additional victims by cold-calling people in other states and coaxing them to invest. In total, he allegedly stole $1,004,159 from four victims.
Sea Cliff Mayor Edward Lieberman, who has been a criminal defense attorney for more than 40 years, said that perpetrators of Ponzi schemes can take advantage of all kinds of people, sometimes stealing their life savings. These cases have been around for more than a century, he said, although there have been more prosecutions in recent decades, and investment broker Bernie Madoff’s 2009 conviction in a $64.8 million Ponzi scheme brought widespread public attention to the crime.
“There has been an uptick in law enforcement and prosecution of these defendants recently,” Lieberman said, “. . . because of the Madoff situation several years back, which displayed the harm and damage it can do to individuals and their families.”
Prosecutors said they also intend to charge Heckler’s corporation, Rand Heckler Inc., in the near future.