Sean Meadows, a financial adviser from Eden Prairie who stole $10 million from his retirement-age clients, was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison before a clapping and cheering courtroom full of his victims.
“Have a good life, Sean,” one person shouted from the audience as Meadows, 42, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshal’s Service and escorted from the courtroom in St. Paul.
Dressed in a gray suit, the redheaded, stocky Meadows apologized profusely during a daylong hearing that included testimony of his victims, many of whom lost everything they had saved for their golden years.
Meadows blamed a gambling addiction as the fuel for his misdeeds.
“I made really, really awful choices,” he said in a halting voice. “I did things I’m wildly ashamed of.”
The 25-year sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, while less than the 30 years sought by a federal prosecutor, was still comparatively stiff and near the upper end of the sentencing guidelines for such crimes.
“In all honesty, Mr. Meadows, your conduct in this case was shocking,” Richard Nelson said, accusing Meadows of “unleashed narcissism,” and a lack of empathy and integrity while lacking remorse.
“Your apologies don’t ring true,” the judge added.
Meadows took funds from 70 of his clients, some of whom were disabled, ill or in vulnerable situations.
He convinced them to purchase annuities they didn’t need, churning their accounts to gin up additional commissions for himself. Meadow’s also persuaded clients to refinance their homes and invest proceeds with him. And to top things off, Meadows failed to pay state and federal taxes for his clients when he agreed to provide accounting services for them.
Before the sentence was read, victims spoke about the effect of Meadows’ theft and the word “devastating” was commonly used.
“It was shock and awe,” one victim, Nancy Gosz, said of her response when she learned of $96,000 in losses through Meadows. “I couldn’t believe I had no money left and Sean had done it.”
Meadows’ attorney, Mark Larson, argued for a sentence of less than 10 years in prison.
“Mr. Meadows deserves a life when his term has been served and he can make good on his promise to make these people whole,” Larson said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Langner said Meadows will never make good on a pledge to repay the victims.
“He destroyed their lives. He didn’t take a little bit, he took everything,” Langner said. “He spent lavishly, gambled, golfed, traveled, went to strip clubs. He didn’t have a gambling problem, he had a stealing problem.”
Meadows is the most recent in a string of criminal cases in Minnesota involving financial advisers who stole from clients. The U.S. attorney’s office and the Minnesota Commerce Department earlier this year announced the creation of a task force to pursue such crimes.