A Renton man was charged with eight federal felony charges in connection with a scheme that defrauded a man of more than $90,000.
Richard Thomas Zieske, 48, was convicted of five counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. He schemed to defraud victims he met through a Renton martial arts studio.
Zieske reportedly overheard a member and teacher of Lee’s Martial Arts talking about his 401K account in 2013. The victim was overheard saying he did not know what to do with his account, which had a balance of about $100,000.
The victim was “forced to retire” and “limit his martial arts” due to a degenerative neck condition, according to a press release. Zieske presented himself as an investment advisor and said he had “prayed about” the victim’s financial condition. He convinced the victim to allow him (Zieske) to manage the more than $95,000 in retirement funds and promised “big returns.” He also said he had “taken the fall” for some of his investors prior and that he was prepared to “come out of retirement” to help with the victim’s investments, according to court documents.
Zieske set up fake identities and private placement offerings in order to transfer more than $90,000 of the victim’s investments.
He used the money to purchase a limited edition Harley Davidson motorcycle, to pay for liposuction surgery and finance a SUV, according to court documents. Bank records show several cash withdrawals of hundreds and thousands of dollars at a time, as well as smaller charges for meals, groceries, movie tickets, etc.
A brokerage firm closed Zieske’s trading account after a check revealed his prior convictions. Zieske then reportedly opened another brokerage account using the identity of another member of the martial arts studio. According to the release, these actions were the basis for the aggravated identity theft convictions.
He was previously convicted with federal charges for defrauding members of his church and others out of more than $1.2 million by posing as an investment advisor, according to the release.
He was sentenced to 41 months in prison and was ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution. The Washington Department of Financial Institutions also entered a cease and desist order against him, according to the release.
Zieske reportedly attempted to recruit other investors, however was unsuccessful. According to documents, he convinced the founder of the martial arts studio to invest $40,000 with him, the release stated.
After the martial arts studio owner invested with Zieske, court documents say “other members of Lee’s Martial Arts became suspicious of Zieske” upon seeing his “unexplained wealth.”
When the members researched Zieske and found his prior convictions, they confronted him. According to documents, Zieske did not deny that he misused the victim and the studio owner’s money.
The members reported the incident to the FBI in January of 2014 and the investigation ensued.
Wire fraud is punishable for up to 20 years in prison. Securities fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed on other counts of conviction.