A federal jury Monday found a man guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud, attempting to murder a government witness, and murder-for-hire, the Department of Justice announced.
Paul S. Kruse, 59, of Jacksonville faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy conviction; 20 years for each wire fraud conviction; 30 years for attempting to kill a government witness; and 10 years for his murder-for-hire plot. Kruse's sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 19.
Kruse was initially indicted in April. A second superseding indictment was filed on Nov. 1.
According to the evidence presented at trial, beginning in 2010, Kruse and his brother conspired to recruit and defraud a number of clients to whom they provided financial advisory services.
Although Kruse and his brother had been licensed financial advisers for decades, at the time of the scheme, both were unlicensed, prosecutors said. As part of the scheme, Kruse established a sham investment firm called "Yorkshire Financial Services." Along with his brother, they convinced their clients, a number of which were retirees, to move their individual retirement accounts, IRAs, to Yorkshire, prosecutors argued.
According to trial evidence, Kruse and his brother deceptively told clients that Yorkshire had been in business for more than 30 years, had a staff of experienced securities traders, and traded in a combination of stocks, bonds, and currencies appropriate for IRAs. In reality, Kruse did not invest the investors' funds, and instead spent the money on luxury cars, home improvements, personal items, and made hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash withdrawals, prosecutors said.
In early 2011, Kruse hired a personal assistant who claimed to witness Kruse's conduct, which prosecutors argued included forging investor signatures, not engaging in investment activity, and lavish spending of investors' money. While Kruse was out of town, the assistant took the documents from the Yorkshire scam to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In early 2012, Kruse approached the FBI and provided a voluntary written confession of his guilt in running an investment fraud scheme, the FBI said.
After Kruse's confession, his co-conspirator brother committed suicide. Kruse was subsequently held in custody on pre-trial detention. While in jail, Kruse hired hitmen to murder his former personal assistant, the prosecution claimed. The assistant was scheduled to be a government witness. Investigators said Kruse stated that he wanted the former assistant killed to prevent her from testifying, and to avenge his brother's death.
The FBI said Kruse also hired the hitmen to rob and kill two former business partners, whom Kruse contended had cheated him. Unbeknownst to Kruse, the men were undercover federal agents.