Former Altoona financial adviser reaches plea deal in federal fraud case

MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) — A former Altoona financial adviser reached a plea deal Monday in a federal fraud case.

Michael Shillin pleaded guilty to wire fraud and bank fraud as part of the plea arrangement, while eight other counts of wire fraud were dismissed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Shillin was charged with nine counts of wire, radio or television fraud and one count of bank fraud. According to the federal indictment, Shillin’s company managed nearly 3,000 accounts and more than $135 million and engaged in a scheme to defraud customers, and investigators say he falsely said to clients that he had made them hundreds of thousands of dollars buying stock in companies, which the Securities and Exchange Commission said was a lie.

The charges were brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 23, 2021, after former clients said Shillin defrauded them. In the filing, investigators said Shillin, while acting as a financial adviser, fabricated documents and lied to clients about the true value of their investments. In addition to allegations of defrauding clients by taking money to make non-existent investments, he also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions for the work he claimed to do on behalf of his clients. The SEC allegations accuse Shillin of defrauding at least 100 clients. The indictment also charges Shillin with defrauding a bank by taking out more than $450,000 in loans using a customer’s banking information.

The SEC complaint said: “During the sale of a life insurance policy, told his [Shillin’s] client, it contained a long-term care benefit. The client, who now has stage IV cancer, only learned that there was no such policy or benefit after his diagnosis. For one of Shillin’s investment clients, the SEC said the reality of Shillin’s betrayal only came after he made the decision to retire early – after Shillin claimed that the man was “$450,000 richer”. Shillin had explained that the money was profits from Shillin’s purchase of shares of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or “SpaceX” for the customer. It wasn’t until later that the investor learned the truth: SpaceX stock and the resulting nest egg were the result of Shillin’s deception. »

The filing added: ‘These are just two examples of Shillin’s myriad lies and the pain they have caused so many of his clients. Shillin went to great lengths to deceive his customers. He even set up an online portal for his clients to monitor their portfolio of stocks and earnings – much of which, as we now know, was fictitious.

Investigators say Shillin began cheating clients in 2014 when he worked for another financial consultancy firm. One of the deceptive actions took place in 2018 when Shillin was terminated from the company and according to the filing, “He falsely told clients that his departure was voluntary. Many clients would have fired him had they known the truth and would therefore have refused to continue paying him consulting fees.

If found guilty of the charges brought by the SEC, Shillin could be barred from certain securities positions; reimburse customers it is accused of defrauding and/or face civil penalties. Shillin pleaded not guilty to all charges on November 4, 2021.

Shillin was arrested before trial after U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him at Cyril E. King International Airport in St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands on April 9, according to court documents filed with the affair.

Shillin’s probation terms included a condition that he could not travel outside the jurisdiction of the federal court, except for day trips to visit relatives and attorneys all over the state. of Wisconsin. Any other travel would require prior approval from Pre-Trial Services.

On March 29, Shillin said he had been invited by his employer to give a talk in Antigua and was under pressure from his employer to become one of the top performers in the company. in 2021. A US Pretrial and Probation Services officer told Shillin that traveling abroad was not something his office could approve of and that Shillin would need to sign off in court. The next day, Shillin’s attorney asked both the probation officer and the Assistant United States Attorney if either would approve Shillin’s request and both said they would deny it. . On April 1, Shillin told his lawyer and the probation officer that his employer had agreed to let his girlfriend make the trip instead to attend events and asked if there would be a problem with her using their joint checking account while traveling abroad.

Shillin told the probation officer that he received $2,000 in airfare credit and a $1,800 bonus from his employer which was deposited into his bank account, which was given to him instead. to attend the conference in Antigua. He said he used the funds to pay for his trip to St. Thomas, where he spent five nights at a resort with his girlfriend, but the probation officer did not verify the claim, according to court documents filed with the summons on Monday. .

Due to the violation of the probation condition, Shillin was detained ahead of his court appearance on Monday.

Shillin is expected to be sentenced on the remaining two counts on August 25. Shillin faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and 30 years in prison for bank fraud.


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Geraldine L. Melton