According to federal prosecutors, between approximately March 2009 and November 2011, Robin Bruhjell Brass, 55, Washington Depot, CT, claimed to be a successful investment advisor and solicited funds from investors, including those who were elderly and in a vulnerable physical condition. During her solicitation, Brass told some potential investors that their money would be safe if invested with her because she had a formula for investing that ensured against loss and guaranteed a good return on investment.
Okay, let's slow that roll down and parse through that: An investing formula that ensures against loss. An investing formula that guarantees a good return on investment.
From my vantage point as a three-decade veteran of Wall Street and an active private investor, my antennae are fully extended, shaking uncontrollably, and my head is about to explode. You got that picture?
For starters, what the hell is an "investing formula" that ensures against loss? Think about those words. Someone claims to have possession of a formula that prevents loss - and this individual is working for a living? Why?
Then there's the other characteristic of this amazing calculation that Brass has: It not only ensures against loss but guarantees a return - guarantees, as in you will not only not incur losses but you will also be assured of some profit.
You have the formula to convert garbage into gold and you're wasting your time telephoning strangers in order to share this wonderful alchemy with them? And the reason that Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and UBS haven't made you an offer is what?
In any event, the feds alleged that Brass also told some investors that her investment funds were federally insured and that she would personally guarantee investments in the fund with her own substantial personal assets. Wow!!! Not only does she have the secret formula for unlimited wealth but the US government is insuring her funds. Okay, so, yeah, the US government may not be all that solvent, I hear you. But, wait, did you miss the part where Brass herself will pledge her own substantial personal assets in the event that our government can't ante up?
As part of the scheme, Brass reassured some of her investors by sending fraudulent account statements to them purporting to represent their account balances. Not surprisingly, these concocted statements showed that the investments were performing well.
At some point, Brass's spin started to fail and some investors apparently demanded repayment - to which Brass responded that her hands were tied because the state of Connecticut had frozen her accounts. Oh my, how could the lousy state of Connecticut go out and freeze this con artist's accounts? I mean, geez, don't those numbskulls in Connecticut know that Brass has this super-duper investment formula guaranteed by the feds and backed up by Brass's own humongous personal wealth? Why freezing her accounts could be dangerous - sort of like tampering with the fundamental mysteries of the universe.
As is always the sad case with these stories, some of the flies that got stuck on Brass's web of deceit and lies couldn't shake free. Victims of this scam lost over $1 million. Of course the supposed formula and the guarantees were nonsense. In fact, Brass failed to invest all of the funds entrusted with her and used some of the money to pay personal expenses for herself and her family, such as credit card bills, college tuition bills, home furnishings and clothing; and to make what prosecutors characterized as"lulling" payments to previous investors (a la the classic Ponzi). One revelation that caught my attention was that Brass had used investors' money to make loan payments to a bank that received funds though the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Following her arrest on November 15, 2011, a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven, CT indicted Brass on four counts of mail fraud on November 22, 2011. On April 25, 2012, Brass pleaded guilty in federal court in Bridgeport, CT to one count of mail fraud stemming from a scheme to defraud investors of more than $1 million. Brass has been detained since her arrest on November 15, 2011. She faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut commented that "People should research their investment advisors and verify information provided to them. Everyone should be suspicious of guaranteed high rates of return, investments that promise 'little or no risk of loss,' and investment scenarios that are difficult to understand.. ."