The founder and principal owner of a financial services company that pitched its wares to veterinarians, as well as physicians, dentists and other professionals, was sentenced Thursday to nine years in federal prison.
Daniel Thibeault, 41, president and CEO of Massachusetts-based Graduate Leverage LLC, also known as GL Advisor, admitted in March to committing $15 million in fraud and obstructing justice. He was sentenced for his crimes in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, by Judge Leo T. Sorokin.
The judge also ordered Thibeault to undergo three years of supervision after his release and pay back $15.3 million to trustees of the defrauded mutual fund, called the GL Beyond Income Fund.
Thibeault must report to a designated correctional institution on July 28 to begin his sentence.
The sentencing played out over five emotional hours, marked with accusations of betrayal from victims and tear-streaked apologies from Thibeault, according to the Boston Globe.
“The list of Daniel Thibeault’s financial fraud victims includes investors and retirees, his colleagues, associates, old college roommates, his nanny, and even his mother,” the Globe reported.
More than a dozen of the victims spoke in court of how Thibeault had bilked them of their life savings and, as a result, should spend a long time in prison and return the $15 million he defrauded.
“I became unethical, that’s it,” Thibeault said through tears, according to the Globe. “I totally lost perspective.”
Among those requesting restitution were former employees of Graduate Leverage. In a court document submitted the day before the sentencing, the employees stated they had collectively lost $595,000 in unpaid wages.
The town of Enfield, Massachusetts, also sought restitution of $300,000 in capital reserve money invested in the mutual fund, according to Valley News. The money has been frozen since legal proceedings against Thibeault began some 18 months ago.
One victim pleaded for leniency: Thibeault’s mother. The Globe reported that his mother linked her son’s illegal activities to drug addiction and asked the court for mercy.
The sentencing marks a sordid turn for Thibeault, who at one time was portrayed as a financial wunderkind.
In February 2004, the Harvard Gazette profiled Thibeault and fellow Harvard Business School classmates who launched Graduate Leverage, “a grassroots business that aims to educate their fellow students at Harvard and elsewhere about the puzzling intricacies of student loan consolidation.”
As the years progressed, Thibeault created numerous affiliated businesses, many incorporating the parent firm’s initials “GL.”
In March 2012, he launched the GL Beyond Income Fund, a mutual fund that, according to marketing materials, sought to eschew default risk by issuing loans of $20,000 to $50,000 to people “less susceptible to economic downturns such as medical doctors, dentists, veterinarians, attorneys and business owners.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office found that within a year of its creation, the mutual fund, under Thibeault’s guidance, began issuing loans for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the names of friends and associates. None of the people had applied for the loans, received the proceeds or even knew their names had been used.
Thibeault used the money from the fictitious loans to pay for operating and personal expenses. By the time officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission paid an unannounced visit to the headquarters of Graduate Leverage in Waltham, Massachusetts, in December 2014, SEC officials found the mutual fund held almost 40 fictitious loans with a combined value of approximately $16 million.
As a result, Thibeault originally was charged with three counts of wire fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of securities fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. Through a plea bargain, he admitted to securities fraud and obstructing justice.
During sentencing, Thibeault’s legal counsel asked the judge to sentence the mutual fund manager to three years in prison. Judge Sorokin balked.
“It’s a long sentence, nine years in federal prison, but this was bad,” the Globe quoted Sorokin as saying. “You were a financial advisor. This is a serious offense, with a lot of money, that went on for a long time.”
The federal government asked the judge that Thibeault’s sentence begin immediately after the sentencing. Sorokin refused that request as well, granting the mutual fund manager another six weeks of freedom.
During those six weeks, Thibeault may be required to help his victims receive restitution. A court document filed by U.S. Attorney’s Office the day after the sentencing asked the court to require Thibeault assist trustees of the mutual fund in finding and recovering assets now instead of after his release: “A condition requiring cooperation with the Trustees has greater likelihood of yielding positive results in the weeks before Thibeault reports to prison.”
A decision has not yet been filed on this request.