Former Indianapolis-area insurance broker sentenced to prison for $4M Ponzi scheme

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By Susan Orr

Indiana Business Journal

Former insurance broker Brian Simms of Lebanon has been sentenced to seven and a half years in federal prison for what prosecutors described as a “Ponzi-like” scheme in which he misappropriated $3.99 million in client funds.

The Indiana Secretary of State’s office announced the sentencing on Wednesday.

In addition to the 90 months of imprisonment, Simms was also ordered to pay $2.62 million in restitution to 18 victims and to participate in mental health and substance abuse treatment and vocational training. Judge Sarah Evans Barker also ordered Simms to complete three years of supervised release after his prison term ends.

Prosecutors had asked the court to impose a 95-month prison sentence.

Simms was also ordered to pay $2.62 million in restitution to 18 of his victims, some of whom are Indiana residents. The individual restitution amounts vary from $7,500 to $1.33 million, according to the sentencing document filed June 13 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana.

According to court documents, Simms perpetrated the fraud through his company, Brendanwood Financial Brokerage LLC in Carmel. Prosecutors said Simms convinced his victims to liquidate their traditional investments such as 401(k) accounts, annuities and life insurance policies, and reinvest that money with Brendanwood.

Simms told the victims that he would invest their money, but instead he either spent it on himself or used it to make “Ponzi-like payments” to other victims, prosecutors said.

Investigators said he used the funds to pay business expenses such as payroll or for his own personal expenditures, including payments to credit cards, Amazon, grocery stores, gasoline, restaurants, and utilities.

Simms was originally charged with six counts of wire fraud in September 2022. In February of this year, Simms agreed to plead guilty to one of those charges, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss the other five charges.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Indiana Secretary of State’s Securities Division.