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A Macomb County investment broker has been charged with stealing nearly a half-million dollars from his clients and spending the cash on private trading and his personal use, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office announced Monday.

Ernest Julius Romer III, 56, of Shelby Township was charged by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith with two counts of embezzlement of $100,000 or more. Each offense carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Smith said Romer convinced two elderly Macomb County residents to invest their nest-eggs through an investment entity, P&R Capital, LLC, that Romer created, the prosecutor said. Romer, who had been the residents’ investment adviser for more than 20 years, allegedly transferred the funds into his own personal accounts.

Romer allegedly conducted a series of securities transactions, at a major loss, and then used the funds for personal spending at Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, Target, Costco, Red Box, gas stations and restaurants.

He also allegedly made ATM cash withdrawals from the invested funds and even transferred some of the cash into personal bank accounts he co-owned with his children.

Romer allegedly swindled the residents out of more than $220,000 each. Investigators suspect Romer’s financial transactions were part of a bigger pattern of alleged criminal activity involving as many as 20 additional investors.

“These senior citizens placed their trust in this financial broker, and he robbed them blind,” Smith said in a statement Monday. “We’ll do everything in our power to seek justice and secure whatever money is left for these victims.”

Smith urged “every saver out there to stay on top of his or her accounts. It never hurts to have another set of eyes on your life savings. Scammers are set to prey on the inattentive investor.”

LARA’s Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau issued a notice and order to cease and desist against Romer and a notice of intent to revoke his securities agent registration.

“The Michigan Uniform Securities Act prohibits securities agents from liquidating customers’ securities and then using the proceeds for personal use,” said bureau director Julia Dale. “Our bureau will continue to take strong regulatory actions to protect the public.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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