BOCA RATON, Fla. — A 23-year-old stockbroker was arrested Friday after an audit disclosed a $47-million discrepancy at a Merrill Lynch brokerage office, the FBI said.
The state immediately moved to freeze the assets of Leslie Howard Roberts and three other employees who, it said, may have been involved in an alleged scheme to artificially inflate the value of trades in an account to increase their commissions.
"The customers's records show one figure. The firm's records show another," said Larry Fuchs, deputy state comptroller. "The broker may have inflated the value of various trades rather than absconding with actual dollars."
Arrested at Home
Agents arrested Roberts at his Boca Raton home on mail-fraud charges early Friday after investigators checked records overnight at a branch of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith.
He was placed in the Palm Beach County Jail pending a hearing before a U.S. magistrate in West Palm Beach, said Joseph V. Corless, special agent in charge of the Miami FBI office.
The FBI was notified Thursday night that an audit by Merrill Lynch and the state comptroller's office disclosed the $47-million discrepancy in an account that Roberts supervised.
Roberts allegedly sent false account statements and other documents to customers inflating the value of trades to increase his commissions.
"The true activity records for that account were being mailed allegedly by Roberts to a false address," Corless said.
Judge Daniel Hurley granted the state's request for a temporary injunction to freeze the assets and prevent destruction of any records held by Roberts and three other employees at the Boca Raton branch.
Fuchs said the other three employees had not been arrested.