A former investment broker from Glen Head used a fake hedge fund to swindle friends, neighbors and strangers out of more than $1 million in a Ponzi scheme, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
Rand Heckler, 55, pleaded not guilty to the allegations against him during a virtual arraignment Wednesday in Hempstead District Court after his arrest.
Prosecutors said he's facing four counts of grand larceny and a single count of scheme to defraud — all felony charges.
Nassau District Court Judge Karen Moroney released Heckler on his own recognizance, citing his lack of criminal history and no objection from the prosecution.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said later in a statement that Heckler allegedly duped people "into investing their savings in a Ponzi scheme that fueled his extravagant lifestyle," using their money to pay for his mortgage, country club membership and other expenses.
Prosecutors contend Heckler stole from four victims, also using some of the proceeds for his own credit card payments and dry cleaning and phone bills.
They said he is facing up to 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count against him.
Heckler's attorney, Michael Finkelstein, said after the arraignment that the defense would do its own investigation of the allegations.
"The district attorney’s investigation thus far has been wholly inadequate and they have jumped to conclusions," the Garden City lawyer said, adding he was confident the charges against Heckler would be dismissed.
Singas’ office said the defendant’s scheme began after he recommended to his friend and friend’s son in 2015 that they invest in a hedge fund of stocks and securities he was managing — an offer he said was only for his closest 15 to 20 friends and associates.
Those particular victims wrote Heckler two dozen checks from late 2015 to early 2020 totaling more than $755,000, prosecutors said.
Heckler showed them statements with the names of stocks and the hedge fund account’s supposed value, also displaying false trade confirmations to try to show stock purchases for them, according to authorities.
Prosecutors said the friend’s son in January 2020 asked for $100,000 from the account of his father, for whom he had power of attorney, before money that Heckler said was from sales of fund shares was wired into the son’s bank account after weeks of delays.
But prosecutors said they discovered, after getting the case from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, that the money had been wired from another victim in February.
That woman, a neighbor of Heckler, went to a bank with him believing that she was wiring a $100,000 life insurance payout related to her husband’s death into the hedge fund, according to authorities.
That victim expected monthly dividend payments from her investment and didn’t suspect any problem until investigators contacted her, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Heckler also cold-called people in other states and got them to agree to invest.
He is due back in court in November.