A former Merrill Lynch financial advisor could face a seven-year prison term after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $700,000 from his clients and spending the money himself.

The Asbury Park Press reported that Stephen Severio, a 40-year-old Fair Haven, N.J.-resident, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of theft by deception and one count of commercial bribery. The thefts pertain to the individual clients, but Merrill Lynch was the victim of the bribery, the newspaper said.

Monmouth County, N.J., prosecutors will recommend that Severio receive a seven-year state prison term when he's sentenced April 23, the paper said. Severio also agreed to pay $685,653 in restitution.

Prosecutors say Severio stole the money while working at Merrill Lynch's office in Red Bank. He persuaded 31 investors to withdraw funds from their Merrill Lynch accounts and reinvest the money through him. He took their checks and cashed most of them at a local check cashing business, and then spent the money himself, prosecutors said.