U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
Northern District of California

May 14, 2010

Investment Advisor Sentenced to Twenty Years

Owner of Irving Bookkeeping & Taxes Defrauded Investors Out of Millions

SAN FRANCISCO - Roberto Heckscher was sentenced today to 240 months in prison in connection with a fraudulent investment scheme he operated from 1979 to 2009, United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced

In his guilty plea on Oct. 30, 2009, Heckscher, who owned and operated Irving Bookkeeping & Taxes in San Francisco’s Sunset District, admitted to engaging in fraudulent conduct that caused investors to lose between approximately $20 million and $100 million. At the sentencing hearing, the Court found that, by June 2009 when the scheme collapsed, Heckscher had defrauded at least 292 investors out of a principal amount of approximately $52 million.

“For nearly three decades, Roberto Heckscher made his livelihood by stealing the hopes and dreams of the people he knew,” U.S. Attorney Russoniello said. “Today’s sentence should send a strong message to everyone – preying on the trust of hardworking people for personal gain will land you in prison. My office will continue to seek out the individuals committing these crimes and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Between approximately 1979 and June 2009, Heckscher defrauded investors – who included his family, friends, and business clients – by promising to arrange short-term commercial loans between his clients and himself. Heckscher misled investors into believing that those purported loans would generate regular interest payments. Instead, Heckscher operated a Ponzi scheme in which some of the funds were transferred to existing investors as “interest payments” or used to repay principal. Heckscher used the remainder for his own purposes, including gambling at Nevada casinos as well as speculative investments in the equities and commodities markets.

Heckscher, 55, formerly of San Mateo, Calif., was originally charged on Oct. 14, 2009, in an Information with one count of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. After his arraignment on Oct. 30, 2009, Heckscher waived a formal detention hearing and was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, who also sentenced the defendant to a three year period of supervised release. Judge Illston also ordered the appointment of a special master to assist in the determination of an allocation of restitution among the victims. The special master will prepare a report in advance of a hearing on restitution that will conducted on July 29, 2010, at 3 p.m.

Timothy J. Lucey is the Assistant United States Attorney who is prosecuting this case with the assistance of Ponly Tu. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for the victims of financial crimes.

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What is Financial Fraud?

Financial Fraud encompasses a wide range of illegal behavior - from mortgage scams to Ponzi schemes, credit card theft to tax fraud. Everyone is affected by financial fraud.