A man who befriended midcoast residents in 2009 and then defrauded them out of more than half a million dollars was sentenced Feb. 26 in Waldo County Superior Court to serve six years in prison and ordered to pay restitution to his victims.
Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw announced the sentence Monday.
An indictment returned in York County in March 2015 named two victims and charged Howarth with theft and securities fraud between May and August 2012. A second indictment was returned in Waldo County in May 2015, and named 17 victims and charged Howarth with theft and securities fraud between Jan. 1, 2009 and Feb. 1, 2010.
Howarth pleaded guilty to all four counts on Dec. 4, 2017.
Waldo County Superior Court Judge Robert Murray ordered Howarth to serve six years of a 10-year prison sentence. Howarth also was ordered to serve three years of probation and pay $575,000 in restitution to his victims.
Howarth used several names, including Robert J. Howarth, Robert Chiofolo, Robert Kim Lee and Robert Sachs, according to a statement by Shaw. Howarth defrauded investors out of more than $575,000 by promising high rates of return for their investments involving the resale of designer clothing.
He befriended his victims, telling them he had recently sold a clothing business in New York for multiple millions of dollars, according to Shaw. He wore high fashion clothing, kept an immaculate appearance and hosted lavish parties. He also paid for meals and trips for his victims, according to Shaw’s statement.
She said most of the victims lost critical retirement savings and described Howarth as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“He ingratiated himself with his victims and once he had established a friendship, he preyed on their trusting nature and vulnerabilities,” Shaw said. “Before making an investment, even with a trusted acquaintance, questions should be asked to make sure the investment is legitimate and that all of the laws and rules regarding investments have been followed.”
Shaw urged anyone who has questions about the authenticity or legality of an investment opportunity, or about the individual making the offer, to contact the Maine Office of Securities.
Information is available at www.investors.maine.gov, by calling 1-877-624-8551 or writing to the Maine Office of Securities, 121 SHS, Augusta, Maine 04333-0121.
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