Ex-stockbroker convicted of wire fraud in bilking ailing client


A former Bethesda stockbroker was convicted yesterday of bilking an ill, elderly client of his life savings.

Charles Zandford spent the money -- a $400,000 nest egg intended for the client's disabled daughter -- on Jaguar restorations, expensive trips and hobbies, and poured the rest into his and his girlfriend's personal accounts. His client, ailing with Alzheimer's disease, was incapable of monitoring his own funds and had no other relatives to watch out for his interests, prosecutors said.

"Mr. Zandford selected two victims who would never know that they had been robbed," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio. "This should send a signal that if you're entrusted with money and you steal it, you're not going to be civilly sued, you're going to go to jail."

The jury, which had heard three weeks of testimony, took only 90 minutes to reach a verdict.

Jurors convicted Zandford, a former broker with the Dominick and Dominick firm, on all 13 counts of wire fraud. He could receive four to five years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 22 by U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson.

The client, William Wood, died in 1991 at 75. Zandford, 43, of Rockville filed for bankruptcy in 1992, claiming no assets. Prosecutors say there apparently is no money left to pay a fine or restitution for Mr. Wood's daughter, who suffers from multiple personality disorder.

As Mr. Wood's health declined and he was placed in a nursing home, Zandford emptied Mr. Wood's accounts. Between November 1987 and March 1988, Zandford had been given $419,255 to invest "conservatively," according to the instructions of Mr. Wood, who had been unemployed and on disability for nearly 20 years. The money was part of a family inheritance.

By Sept. 28, 1990, the Wood account had a zero balance.

Zandford and defense lawyer Frederick Greco insisted during the trial that the money had been handled carefully according to Mr. Wood's instructions.

The money found in Zandford's accounts came from loans and business investments the two had agreed to, as well as $100,000 Mr. Wood arranged to pay the broker for managing some of his personal business, Zandford testified.

But prosecutors argued that the documents produced by Zandford as proof of these agreements were phony, concocted by the broker to cover up the fraud.

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