Woes for a longtime Westchester Square tax preparer and financial advisor Robert Van Zandt piled up this past week with his arrest on charges he swindled clients out of $4.6 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Robert “Bob” Van Zandt pleaded not guilty before Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Denis Boyle on Monday to a 35-count indictment charging fraud, grand larceny and money laundering.
He was ordered to surrender his passport.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Van Zandt took life savings in some cases, promising high rates of return on investments, instead using later investors’ money to pay previous investors to stay one step ahead, or to pay his own gambling debts and other expenses.
Schneiderman said about 100 investors put up between $25,000 to $900,000 to his Blondell Avenue-based Van Zandt Agency.
“Mr. Van Zandt stole his victims’ life savings, and forced some of them to re-enter the workplace or rely on government assistance to survive, while others face foreclosure on their homes or bankruptcy,’’ Schneiderman said.
But Van Zandt’s attorney, Michael Bachner, said his client was himself the victim of partners, with the investments involved in the indictment legitimate real estate investments that lost value when the market crashed in 2008.
“Mr. Van Zandt will demonstrate that he himself was the victim of fraudulent conduct by individuals who worked for him who forged his name, who notarized documents fraudulently and who took advantage of him.’’
A number of those who were bilked have filed a civil complaint with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority against MetLife Securities, worth over $4 million, charging the investment firm “failed to provide adequate and meaningful supervision over their branch office.