August 20, 2015 / 8:51 PM / 4 years ago

Ex-JPMorgan banker to plead guilty in embezzlement case-hearing

NEW YORK, Aug 20 (Reuters) - A former investment adviser at JPMorgan Chase & Co is expected to plead guilty in September, after federal prosecutors in New York charged him with taking at least $22 million out of client accounts to use for his own purposes.

A lawyer for Michael Oppenheim and a prosecutor told U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres at a court hearing on Thursday that their negotiations have gone well. The lawyers asked Torres to schedule another hearing on Sept. 30, when they expect Oppenheim will plead guilty.

“The case is definitely resolving itself by plea,” Oppenheim’s defense lawyer, Paul Shechtman, told Torres.

Oppenheim was arrested at his New Jersey home in April and has been allowed to remain free on a $1 million bond and under electronic monitoring, though he cannot travel far from his house.

Oppenheim, who worked at a Chase bank branch and was employed at the company from 2002 until March, faces charges of embezzlement and fraud.

At the time of his arrest, JPMorgan said it had alerted authorities to the matter and was working with affected clients.

“We are angry that this person violated the trust our clients place in us,” the bank said in a statement in April.

According to prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has filed parallel civil charges, Oppenheim worked with approximately 500 wealthy clients in his position as a vice president and private client adviser.

Between 2008 and 2015, Oppenheim persuaded clients to let him withdraw some of their money, in some cases millions of dollars, purportedly to invest in low-risk municipal bonds, prosecutors said. In other cases, they claim he simply took the money without permission.

He then funneled the money to brokerage accounts he controlled, where he traded stock and options in companies, including Tesla Motors Inc.

Oppenheim lost most of the stolen money in unprofitable options trading, the SEC said. Authorities also said he used some of the funds to pay personal bills and a home loan.

Oppenheim issued false statements to clients and moved money from one account to another to hide his fraud, authorities said.

The case is U.S. v. Oppenheim, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-548. (Reporting by Joseph Ax)

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