Published by 13 WHAM Rochester
By Jane Flasch
Wednesday, May 1st 2019
Rochester, N.Y. — For their entire lives, Jim and Sandra Fitzpatrick managed an egg farm in rural Allegany County.
In their retirement, their broker recommended they cash in a life insurance policy for a new investment.
“I don’t even know what a variable annuity is,” said Sandra Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said she and her husband trusted their broker, Francesco Puccio. They say he recommended they buy a new and very large replacement life insurance policy, even though they were in their mid-80s at the time.
It was a decision they came to regret.
“It cost us millions of dollars, and we want to warn other people,” said Fitzpatrick.
Authorities say Puccio sold life insurance policies and complicated annuities to people who didn’t understand or need them.
“I’ve never seen such brazen misconduct from a broker,” said attorney Jason Kane, who represents the Fitzpatricks. “This was a man who couldn’t pay his bills and was willing to do anything.”
Puccio was eventually convicted of grand larceny.
But, attorneys say he bilked the Fitzpatricks in order to pay restitution to the victim of the grand larceny charge, who has been identified as Shirley Kerwin.
Kerwin said she and her husband were defrauded out of their life savings.
“He (Puccio) came to my house and told me my money is all gone, and that’s when I almost fell on the floor,” she recalled.
Puccio has since lost his broker’s license and has been banned from practicing. Federal authorities at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority have ordered him to repay $2.3 million to the Fitzpatricks.
Yet attorneys say Puccio’s company, AXA Advisors, shares the blame.
“There should have been red flag after red flag,” said Kane.
Kane says the Fitzpatricks went to AXA with their concerns and were told their complaint was denied. That’s when they called an attorney.
“He shouldn’t have been allowed to do this,” said Kane. “There should have been lots and lots of questions.”
AXA Advisors released the following statement to 13WHAM:
“These actions were inconsistent with our policies and values. The financial professional who was involved in this matter has not been affiliated with the company for more than five years. We remain committed to serving our clients with integrity.”
Attorneys want to hear from others who may have had a similar experience.
“I learned you just can’t trust anybody,” said Sandra Fitzpatrick, who now cares for her husband, who suffers from dementia, full-time.
Kerwin also has a message for would-be clients of financial planners and brokers.
“I’d like to talk to the elderly out there,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights. You are the victims.”
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