Enrique Perusquia, 48, of Jackson Hole, Wyo., was charged by the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco with five counts of securities fraud and was also sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The criminal counts each could carry a penalty of five years in prison.
"The complaint charges that from January 1992 through March 1998, Mr. Perusquia secretly invested client funds in a series of speculative companies in return for broker kickback commissions from those companies, which later collapsed," the U.S. attorney's office said in a release.
Prosecutors said Perusquia was a senior vice president with Lehman Brothers in Zurich in 1992 and then served in the same capacity with PaineWebber at offices in New York and San Francisco.
"He specialized in handling the accounts of high-net-worth clients, primarily from Mexico," the release said.
Perusquia allegedly used his authority to exercise discretionary control over his clients' money to buy large blocks of stock from a gold-mining company called American Resource and its subsidiary, American Pacific Minerals. Prosecutors allege he bought more than $7.7 million worth of securities on margin without the clients' knowledge.
In some cases, he allegedly forged client signatures on documents authorizing the purchases and then sent out false account statements to cover up the fraud.
In return, Perusquia allegedly received commissions totaling $1.3 million in cash and more than 600,000 shares of stock in the two companies, which have since gone out of business.
Late last year, a New York Stock Exchange arbitration panel ordered Peruquia to pay a $429 million fine in an action brought by a group of investors. At the time, attorneys for the clients said they doubted they would ever collect the money.
The record NYSE award captured headlines in New York, where Perusquia was described in the New York Post as a high-living aficionado of Formula 1 auto racing and the ex-husband of Mexican television star Lourdes Monguia.
(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles.)