Manitoba Investment Adviser Fined $485K for Stealing Wife’s Funds

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Gennaro Scerbo, a former investment adviser who worked for a branch of RBC Dominion Securities in Winnipeg, has been fined $485,000 – the largest fine in Manitoba’s history – by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).

Scerbo is accused of making “fraudulent withdrawals from his wife’s RRSP account without her knowledge or consent,” according to the IIROC’s decision. He allegedly forged his wife’s signature on RRSP de-registration forms a total of 57 times over about four years to withdraw $271,000, all while serving as a registered representative for RBC Dominion Securities. The penalty consists of a $420,000 base fine, a $50,000 fine for failing to cooperate with the IIROC’s investigation, and $15,000 in additional costs to the IIROC.

His ex-spouse, Maddalena Santarsieri, is now suing the company and accusing it of inadequate oversight, and also claims that she never received a phone call from RBC about her husband’s withdrawals. “I trusted my husband, who was a financial adviser at RBC,” she said. “He basically forged my signature 57 times and withdrew my money without consent.”

Scerbo, despite forging his wife’s signatures, defended the matter to CBC News as a “domestic dispute.” “She had online access to our bank accounts, online access to all her accounts. All the money that we de-registered went into our account to finance the million-dollar house she’s living in and finance our lifestyle,” he claimed.

According to the IIROC’s report, “[Scerbo] demonstrated a deliberate, contrived pattern of conduct” and made calculated efforts to conceal his withdrawals, such as “arranging his wife’s RRSP account so that monthly statements were mailed to him and were never provided to his wife.”

In addition, Scerbo “assumed responsibility for filing his wife’s tax returns, which he failed to do, thereby resulting in his wife being assessed significant income tax and penalties and being liable for the payment of interest on the tax arrears.” The panel also wrote that his actions “demonstrated a total lack of integrity, and an intentional pattern of dishonest conduct over an extended period of time involving a significant number of fraudulent acts.”

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RBC Dominion Securities is cooperating with the IIROC’s investigation. “We require that all employees maintain the highest standards of behaviour and operate in accordance with the regulations governing our industry,” wrote director of communications Louise Armstrong.

In accordance with the IIROC’s decision, Scerbo is permanently banned from registering with the regulatory body. “Mr. Scerbo caused significant harm and also failed to cooperate with an IIROC investigation. It was important that this penalty reflect the seriousness and scope of the allegations,” said Andrea Zviedris, IIROC’s manager of media relations, in an email statement. “Wrongdoers must be held accountable for their actions.”

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