George Heckler, an investment fund manager from Hatfield and a son of a former mayor of the Montgomery County borough, was sentenced to 63 months in prison last week for stealing roughly $20 million from investors and lying about his trading strategy.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said at a court hearing July 21 that Heckler had previously pleaded guilty by video-conference before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to one count of securities fraud. Arleo imposed the sentence July 21 in federal court in Newark .
According to documents filed in the case, Heckler, 65, controlled multiple investment funds, including Conestoga Partner Holdings, Cassatt Short Term Trading Fund LP, and CV Special Opportunity Fund LP.
Between 2014 and 2018, Heckler lied to his investors, saying he would invest their money. Instead, he diverted funds to pay out earlier investors’ losses suffered by other entities he managed and controlled.
Heckler solicited his victims by claiming good returns in his Cassatt fund. However, as of December 2013, his Cassatt fund no longer even had a brokerage account for trading.
In 2014, Heckler received $9.1 million from a single investor and used $4.6 million of that investment to repay existing investors and to pay debts.
Heckler then approached other potential investors and in late 2015 formed a hedge fund with $10.1 million. Again, he didn’t use the money for trading and instead repaid previous investors.
During the fraud, Heckler sent out false statements misleading his victims into believing that their portfolio value was increasing, when they were actually losing money. Heckler also took out $1 million in fees from the fraudulently obtained investor funds for personal use.
In addition to the prison term, Arleo sentenced Heckler to three years of supervised release and restitution of $19.25 million. FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Driscoll, of the Philadelphia field office, was in charge of the investigation.
Victims of Heckler’s crimes spoke at last week’s hearing in Newark. One who lives in South Jersey and asked not to be identified by name, said Heckler “showed no remorse. He didn’t even turn around and look at us or say he was sorry. The loss of my retirement funds has ruined my health and my relationship with my wife.”
Hatfield mayor’s son
George Heckler, son of Howard Heckler, mayor of Hatfield Borough between 1998 and 2005, resides in Charleston, S.C. It was unclear where he will report to prison. The elder Heckler, now in his 90s, still lives in the borough, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia, according to an online search.
Heckler had close ties with another person accused of financial fraud in Philadelphia. His funds Cassatt Short-Term Trading and CV Fund were clients of Brenda Ann Smith, indicted on charges that she operated a Ponzi scheme, and the accounting firm where she worked. She is awaiting trial and was most recently being held in New Jersey’s Essex County jail.
Heckler wasn’t a direct investor with Smith, but he sometimes worked out of her offices in West Conshohocken.
Heckler’s formation documents for the Cassatt Short-Term Trading hedge fund in 2008 show that he wanted to raise $50 million, with a $1 million minimum investment, according to regulatory filings. Smith was the fund administrator for Cassatt and other entities controlled by Heckler.