A New York former tax preparer who admitted to swindling longtime clients out of millions of dollars in an elaborate Ponzi scheme was sentenced to spend the next 11 years in federal prison. Robert Van Zandt, 70, received the sentence after previously pleading guilty to a 33-count indictment that included charges of securities fraud, grand larceny, and intent to defraud. Van Zandt received the maximum possible sentence pursuant to his plea agreement with prosecutors, which had called for a sentence ranging from 3.8 years to 11 years.
Van Zandt operated the Van Zandt Agency, a well-known tax preparation agency, for decades. However, beginning in 2007, Van Zandt began using his position to solicit longtime clients to invest with him - sometimes convincing investors to entrust him with their entire retirement funds and/or savings. This was facilitated through Van Zandt's unique access to each client's financial situation. In return, Van Zandt provided investors with promissory notes or shareholder agreements promising guaranteed rates of return. Van Zandt promised to place investor funds in lucrative securities, including real estate projects that were impossible to build.
In total, Van Zandt raised nearly $5 million from investors from February 2008 through January 2011. However, rather than invest in 'lucrative securities', Van Zandt commingled investor funds and misappropriated them for his own personal and business use. Van Zandt was arrested in May 2012, and subsequently pleaded guilty in November 2014.
Van Zandt's attorney was quoted as insinuating that others at the Van Zandt agency were involved in the fraud and thus potentially subject to criminal and/or civil prosecution.
The charging document is below: