Westlake financial adviser Raymond Erker and two associates face federal charges for allegedly stealing nearly $10 million from 54 people. The two co-defendants named in the indictment filed in federal court Sept. 3 are Kevin Krantz and Tara Brunst.

Erker ran multiple investment and asset management companies, many operating under some variation of Sageguard, LLC, according to the 14-page indictment. Erker has been licensed in Ohio as an investment adviser since March 2003.

Krantz is described in the indictment as a certified public accountant licensed in Ohio, as well as the chief financial officer for Sageguard. He operated an office in Westlake along with Erker.

Like Erker, Brunst is an Ohio licensed investment adviser. She earned her license in May 2014 and the indictment said she has been employed as an investment adviser representative at one of the Sageguard firms since July 2015.

The indictment charges that from January 2013 through roughly July 2018 the defendants “knowingly and intentionally combined, conspired, confederated and agreed with each other … to commit federal offenses.” The indictment further charges they used “false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises” to carry out their schemes.

The indictment states the three created false brochures, websites and accounts to draw investors. Investors were told they were purchasing annuities and secured notes with no exposure to risk or loss and carrying guaranteed rates of return, but, according to the indictment, the companies involved were not secured by any real or personal assets and investor funds were misappropriated or invested in high-risk startup companies.

Sageguard promised investor funds would be used for safe and reliable investments providing guaranteed and increasing lifetime payments. Officials allege investor money was instead diverted to Sageguard entities and Erker’s personal bank account.

“Defendants operated their investment program as a Ponzi scheme by diverting new investors’ funds to payments due to old investors,” the indictment charges.

Trying to make their investment operation appear legitimate, the defendants set up offices in Delaware and Nevada, contracted with call centers, produced account statements purporting to show investor account balances and took other steps intended to hide alleged criminal activity, the indictment says.

Contact this reporter at tcorrigan@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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