New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the owner of a well-known Bronx tax-preparation agency with operating a Ponzi scheme that scammed investors out of nearly $5 million. Robert H. Van Zandt was charged with two charges of money laundering, two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, two counts of Securities Fraud, and 29 counts of Grand Larceny. If convicted of the most serious offense, Van Zandt faces up to twenty-five years in prison.
According to the unsealed indictment, 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 as a manager of a tax preparation business to solicit clients to entrust him with their retirement funds and 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 over $4.6 million from investors from February 2008 through January 2011. However, rather than invest in 'lucrative securities', Van Zandt never invested any of these funds. Instead, he commingled investor funds and misappropriated them for his own personal and business use.
Van Zandt is currently being held on $500,000 bond, and has been ordered to surrender his passport.
A press release from the office of the New York Attorney General is here.