A former financial advisor and insurance salesman, who was called a "deviant financial predator" by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for frauds conducted over the last 20 years.
Edward L. Moskop, 63, who had been banned from conducting financial business by the SEC in 1990 because of an unrelated fraud charge, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering in connection with defrauding 18 victims out of $2.4 million. In some cases, he took the entire life savings of elderly victims, some of whom were ill or were Nazi labor camp survivors.
Moskop, who operated Financial Services Moskop & Associates Inc. in Belleville, Ill., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Illinois. District Court Judge William Stiehl rejected pleas of leniency from Moskop's attorney, saying he targeted victims who were especially vulnerable and that his fraud required sophistication.
The scheme began to unravel when the SEC began investigating Moskop last year after the daughter of an elderly couple complained. Moskop took numerous payments from the couple to invest in fixed-rate trusts and certificates of deposit, but never made the investments, according to the SEC. He sent the couple false statements claiming the investments were made.
Several victims appeared before the court to tell their stories. Moskop was ordered to make restitution but could not even pay a $375 fine so the court waived the fine.
"He was so deviant he took the entire life savings of one couple, where the 85-year-old wife had survived the Nazi labor camps. When the husband died he continued to take the widow's money and then he took their son's money," U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton says. "They started their lives with nothing and he took every penny the couple had, more than $300,000, and sent them statements saying they had more than $500,000 in their investment."
Out of the $2.4 million he was given, he paid out about $900,000 to lull victims into thinking he was investing their money. He also sent false statements to victims to convince them their money was intact, Wigginton says.
"He even convinced one investor who had invited him to a party to get a $120 special event insurance policy for the party, did not buy the policy and still went to the party himself and ate and drank," says Wigginton.
Moskop got away with the fraud for decades because his victims knew and trusted him, the judge said.
Moskop told widows their deceased husbands' investments were intact when, in fact, they no longer existed. One victim sent Moskop $62,000 to pay for life and liability insurance policies that were never purchased. In another case, he left a widow with barely enough to live on.
One man died of lung cancer thinking his investments would take care of his widow, when none of the money had actually been invested.