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Jury convicts a Sarasota insurance agent of defrauding elderly investors

Brian Turner

A Sarasota man has been found guilty in federal court on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

A Sarasota man has been found guilty in federal court on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

On Monday, following a six-week trial, a jury returned guilty verdicts on nine counts against Phillip Roy Wasserman, 66. He will face a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment on each of the conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud counts.

The United States is also seeking a money judgment in the amount of at least $6.3 million, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct. Prior to trial, the tax counts in Wasserman's superseding indictment were ordered to be tried separately at his request.

On July 21, 2021, Wasserman’s codefendant, Kenneth Rossman, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud as well as aiding and abetting the preparation of a false and fraudulent income tax return. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8.

According to evidence, Wasserman, a former lawyer and licensed insurance agent, and Rossman, a Florida certified public accountant and licensed insurance agent, made false and fraudulent misrepresentations and concealed material information to convince elderly victim-investors to put their money into Wasserman’s new insurance venture – “FastLife.”

Some victim-investors were persuaded to liquidate traditional investments such as annuities and/or to borrow funds against existing life insurance policies to generate cash to invest in the venture. These victim-investors were not told about surrender fees and other costs associated with said liquidations, or about negative personal tax consequences resulting from liquidations.

Wasserman paid Rossman a percentage of the victim-investors’ money as compensation for his role in the conspiracy. Wasserman also used victim-investors’ money to make payments to earlier victim-investors in the FastLife venture, as well to as other earlier creditors.

Wasserman spent a significant amount of the victim-investors’ money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a luxury personal residence, a beach house on Casey Key, Tampa Bay Lightning season and playoff tickets, concerts and other shows, vehicles, jet skis, jewelry, personal celebrity entertainment, gambling, retail shopping, home improvements, personal insurance, and a host of other expenses for his personal benefit and the benefit of family members.

The evidence also established that Wasserman took numerous affirmative steps to evade payment of more than $900,000 in taxes due and owed. Wasserman also failed to disclose a multitude of civil judgments and other debts pending against him at the time he solicited victim-investors to put their money into FastLife.

In addition, Wasserman took steps to conceal FastLife’s mounting business debts to various business vendors and service providers, employees and independent contractors, and victim-investors. The investigation revealed that Wasserman had created a second set of books and fabricated a compensation agreement in an effort to convince investigators that he had not made improper personal use of victim-investors’ funds.

Moreover, Wasserman urged one witness to lie to investigators, attempted to dissuade several victim-investors from cooperating with law enforcement, and requested that one victim-investor make a baseless complaint against an investigator.

In a further effort to thwart the investigation, Wasserman falsely and fraudulently represented that he had an audit from a highly regarded financial services firm that would show neither he nor FastLife had committed any wrongdoing. In fact, Wasserman had never even engaged the firm to perform an audit and never received any final work product of any kind from the firm.

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WGCU Staff