For 18 years, a Long Island, N.Y., broker cheated elderly clients out of their retirement savings to fund his luxurious lifestyle, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Steven Pagartanis of East Setauket, N.Y., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Central Islip to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for orchestrating a Ponzi scheme and awaits sentencing, the U.S. Attorney said Monday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also has filed a civil complaint against Pagartanis for the same scheme. Charges are on hold pending the outcome of the criminal charges, the SEC said.

Pagartanis admitted in his guilty plea that from January 2000 to March 2018, he solicited elderly victims to invest in real estate-related investments, including some affiliated with publicly traded entities, a Canadian company and an international hotel conglomerate, according to the press release. Pagartanis, who was a licensed financial advisor and affiliated with a registered broker-dealer, promised the victims that their principal would be secure and they would earn a fixed return, which he typically claimed to be between 4.5 percent to 8 percent annually.

The victims wrote checks payable to an entity secretly controlled by Pagartanis, who used a network of bank accounts to launder the stolen funds, the release said. He used the money to pay personal expenses, buy luxury items and make the payments to some victims, the U.S. Attorney said.

To keep the scheme going, Pagartanis created fictitious account statements reflecting ownership interests in the purported investments to get more people to invest and to conceal the scheme. In all, the victims invested more than $13 million and sustained actual losses of more than $9 million. Many of the victims lost substantial portions of their life savings as a result of the scheme, the U.S. Attorney said.

“Pagartanis perpetrated his fraud scheme against elderly investors who could least afford to lose their life savings,” said U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.

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