A former Canisius High School football coach and disbarred financial adviser faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in November for bilking three clients out of $870,000.
Prosecutors say Raymond T. Clark, 42, of East Amherst, took hundreds of thousands of dollars that he was supposed to invest on behalf of clients and, instead, used it for personal expenses.
One victim, a friend and relative of Clark's, said that the broker betrayed his trust in stealing more than $200,000 from him and that Clark doesn't seem to feel remorse for his actions.
Clark last month pleaded guilty in federal district court to wire fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo. He agreed to pay restitution to the three victims and faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his Nov. 15 sentencing.
The investigation into Clark began in 2016 with a lead from an agency that regulates the financial industry, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Moellering, who handled the case.
The crimes to which Clark admitted took place between February 2013 and May 2017, Moellering said.
Clark told the three clients that he would place their money in hedge funds, publicly traded companies and other investments. Instead, he kept the money for himself, although the U.S. Attorney's Office said it could not reveal details on that personal spending.
The U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service investigated other conduct by Clark, but prosecutors brought charges only where they believed they had the best chance of winning a conviction, Moellering said. He was charged Dec. 20.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, requires a different level of proof to act itself, she said.
Every broker must be licensed and registered by FINRA, which also fields and investigates customer complaints and levies punishment where appropriate.
Clark's FINRA report shows 17 disclosures dating back to 1999 – 13 customer disputes and four regulatory actions taken by FINRA.
Of the customer complaints, two were closed with no action and one was denied. Four other cases were settled. The customers had sought nearly $11.2 million – primarily from one claim for $10 million – and settled for $461,250.
The other six cases are pending, with repayment of almost $1.1 million requested.
The complaints accuse Clark of misprepresentation, forgery of account documents, negligence, rules violations, unauthorized trades, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. He worked for various financial advisory and brokerage firms over the years.
Kevin Phillips, a Buffalo native who now lives in San Diego, filed a complaint against Clark through FINRA and is one of the three victims Clark admitted to fleecing. The two became friends after Clark married one of Phillips' cousins. Clark, who is from Long Island, had met his future wife at Siena College, and she ended up bringing him back to Buffalo. They are now divorced.
Phillips said Clark initially gave him some advice on how to invest his retirement savings before convincing Phillips to give him $150,000 to invest in an oil and gas company. Clark never made that investment, nor did he invest $50,000 Phillips gave him to put into a hedge fund, according to Phillips.
Phillips said Clark also improperly collected $50,000 in commissions on a $350,000 investment he made on Phillips' behalf in a pharmaceutical company, an investment that today is practically worthless. Phillips is slated to receive about $200,000 in restitution from Clark, although he said he doesn't expect to get any of it back.
Phillips said it pained him to learn that Clark had mishandled his money. He said he wish he'd known about previous complaints lodged against Clark when he was considering trusting him with his money.
Phillips said Clark stole the money to pay for his lavish lifestyle, including vacations, an SUV and a country club membership. "He's the kind of guy, always paying for things, paying for dinner, leaving big tips," Phillips said.
Phillips said he confronted Clark several times, and even wore a wire at the behest of the FBI to record their conversations. Clark always said he would get Phillips his money soon, Phillips said.
"He's not sorry, and he'll do it again," said Phillips. He added that he's guilt-ridden that he also introduced friends and colleagues to Clark who later became victims themselves.
FINRA punished Clark for using a personal email account to conduct business with a client, failing to pass along a customer's complaints to his firm, failing to cooperate in a FINRA investigation into claims of unauthorized trading and failing to pay a fine levied by FINRA. He was suspended twice and then, in 2015, he was barred from acting as a broker.
Anthony Lana, Clark's lawyer in the criminal case, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Canisius High School said she couldn't verify through personnel records that this was the Ray Clark who coached at the school. However, a source with ties to the football program confirmed it's the same person.
Clark served as the head football coach at Canisius High School for one season, in 2006, when the team posted a 1-7 record. He started at Canisius in 2004 as the freshman coach and coached the junior varsity the following year.
A Buffalo News profile of Clark from 2006 said he operated his own brokerage firm in addition to his coaching duties.