Robert Bard Securities-Fraud Trial Begins
The securities-fraud trial of former Warfordsburg financial advisor Robert Bard, who is accused of defrauding 43 investors of more than $3 million, began Monday at the federal courthouse in Harrisburg.
Bard, 46, faces 21 counts of fraud and making false statements to the FBI brought against him in July 2012 by the U.S. Department of Justice.
His trial, which is expected to last two weeks, according to court documents, will be heard in a U.S. District courtroom for the Middle District of Pennsylvania presided over by Judge Sylvia H. Rambo.
A federal grand jury charged Bard, whose clients lived mostly in and around Warfordsburg, in a July 18, 2012, indictment with one count of securities fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of investment advisor fraud, and one count of making false statements to the FBI.
Bard pled not guilty to those charges during arraignment proceedings July 24, 2012, in Harrisburg.
The Department of Justice alleges that Bard executed a scheme to defraud numerous clients of his investment advisory business, Vision Specialist Group, by soliciting and obtaining millions of dollars under false pretenses, by failing to invest the fraudulently obtained funds as promised, and by repeatedly concealing and covering up the fact that he had squandered his clients’ investments on risky stocks and other volaltile investments.
Bard is accused of lying to 43 clients between July 2006 and August 2009 about the value and makeup of their investment accounts. False verbal assurances and phony statements that overstated account values were provided to clients in order to conceal millions of dollars in losses, to hide investments that went against their specific wishes and to generate more fees, U.S. prosecuters maintain.
The Justice Department also alleges that Bard never informed his clients that prior to opening Vision Specialist Group in December 2004 he had been terminated as a stockbroker after the firm he worked for discovered that he had prepared and submitted investment documents with forged customer signatures.
His clients were also never informed that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority had determined that Bard forged customer signatures and improperly guaranteed investment returns, or that he had filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and was in bankruptcy court until August 2011 when his personal debts were discharged by the court’s order.
Bard is further accused of committing bank fraud by supplying a bank with one of the phony account statements in connection with a loan application for a client of his and of lying to the FBI about his activities when first interviewed in May 2009.
Bard and Vision Specialist Group were charged with securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a civil suit filed July 30, 2009. The U.S. District Court in Harrisburg issued a preliminary injunction against Bard and Vision Specialist on August 11, 2009.
A permanent injunction was issued in November 2011 after the federal court determined that Bard and Vision Specialist had violated securities laws. In February 2012, Bard was found liable for a civil penalty of $2.5 million and $450,000 in disgorgement for profits that resulted from his fraud.
The criminal case against Bard was investigated by the FBI and is assigned to senior litigation counsel Bruce Brandler, assistant United States attorney, for prosecution.
Bard is privately represented by Dennis Boyle, Edward Raleigh and Megan Shanbacher of Boyle, Autry and Murphy law firm in Camp Hill. Boyle and Shanbacher also defended Bard in the SEC’s civil suit.
Bard faces a maximum of 75 years in prison if convicted of all 21 counts, plus substantial fines and penalties.