Ex-Sarasota insurance agent sentenced for defrauding elderly investors

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — A now-former Sarasota insurance agent and lawyer was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison for fraudulently convincing elderly people to invest into his new insurance venture, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Phillip Roy Wasserman, 67, of Sarasota, was found guilty in May of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. He pleaded guilty in October to tax evasion, according to officials.

Wasserman will also have to forfeit more than $6.3 million that was made during the crimes, officials said.

“With false promises of riches and security, Mr. Wasserman exploited the most vulnerable in our society,” Special Agent in Charge with IRS-Criminal Investigation Brian Payne said in a statement. “Investment schemes that target the elderly are especially heinous and will not be tolerated by the justice system.”

Wasserman persuaded victims to liquidate their traditional investments and/or to borrow funds against existing life insurance policies to generate cash to invest in his venture. He would then use some of the funds to make payments to earlier victims.

Wasserman didn’t tell the victims about surrender fees or any other charges that may have stemmed from the liquidations, officials said. A co-conspirator would then prepare income taxes in a way to hide any “negative personal tax consequences” from the liquidations.

Leftover funds were used to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a beach house on Casey Key, Tampa Bay Lightning season and playoff tickets, concerts, vehicles, jet skis, jewelry, personal celebrity entertainment, gambling, retail shopping, home improvements, personal insurance, and a host of other expenses for his personal benefit.

Evidence showed that Wasserman even took steps to evade paying more than $900,000 owed in taxes.

He also told a witness to lie to investigators and tried to persuade the victims to not cooperate with law enforcement, officials said.

“False allegations against our investigators, coverups of financial documents, or witness tampering will not deter us,” Payne said. “Wasserman called himself the Annuity King but his actions and crimes have earned him another name: Convicted Felon.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to WFLA.