A former Kennebunk man accused of defrauding Maine investors of more than $575,000 has been sentenced to six years in prison on two counts each of theft by deception and securities fraud.

Robert J. Howarth, who is in his 60s, was sentenced in February in Waldo County Superior Court after pleading guilty in December.

Howarth bilked 19 investors in a scheme in which he took investments for a business that he had claimed would resell designer clothing, according to the filing.

He was indicted in 2015 after an investigation by the Maine Office of Securities, but fled to New Jersey, where he was eventually arrested and returned to Maine.

Howarth told investors that he had recently sold a clothing business in New York for multiple millions of dollars. He impressed victims by wearing high-end clothing, throwing parties and paying for meals and trips for his victims and told them his planned business would provide high rates of return.

“Mr. Howarth was a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw said in a statement announcing the sentencing. “He ingratiated himself with his victims and once he had established a friendship, he preyed on their trusting nature and vulnerabilities.”

Most of the investors who were victimized by Howarth lost critical savings needed for their retirement years, she said.

Howarth received a 10-year underlying sentence with all but six years suspended on a theft charge from Waldo County; a concurrent five-year sentence on a Waldo County securities fraud charge; a concurrent six-year sentence on a York County theft charge; and a concurrent five-year sentence on a York County securities fraud charge. The judge also ordered three years of probation and told Howarth to make restitution payments of $575,000.

Howarth also used the names Robert Chiofolo, Robert Kim Lee and Robert Sachs.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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