Pittsfield broker sanctioned for failing to disclose role in real estate project

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PITTSFIELD — A Pittsfield man placed under house arrest for filing a false criminal complaint and other offenses has been sanctioned by the group that regulates the financial industry.

This month, Jason C. LaBelle, a former broker with LPL Financial LLC and Edward Jones, admitted that he broke rules of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, known as FINRA. In an agreement signed Jan. 9, LaBelle accepted that he failed to disclose an outside business project that, in part, used money provided by a client.

The group imposed a three-month suspension of LaBelle's ability to act as a general securities representative for any firm associated with FINRA. Also, he must pay a $5,000 fine before seeking to work again with a firm that is a member of FINRA, according to a document filed by the group.

The suspension became effective Monday and runs through April 19. Though LaBelle's more than four-year association with LPL Financial ended Dec. 20, the financial regulatory group has jurisdiction over his status in the industry.

In December, LaBelle received a two-year suspended jail sentence in a case in which a fellow defendant, Michael McHugh, was sentenced to serve half of a two-year term in jail after a Berkshire Superior Court jury found him guilty Nov. 27 of assault and battery, filing a false police report and misleading police.

But, LaBelle was ordered by Judge John Agostini to be confined to his home for six months of a two-year probation.

Like McHugh, LaBelle had been charged with assault related to a July 4, 2016, incident that left LaBelle's father-in-law, Michael Cebula, with fractured ribs and other injuries. LaBelle was acquitted on the assault charge.

McHugh, who was off-duty from his job as a Pittsfield Police officer at the time of the incident, faces the loss of his position and pension.

In the FINRA case, LaBelle admitted that he violated the agency's requirement that people in his position give written notice to an employer that they could receive income from outside business activities.

For 16 months, starting in February 2016, LaBelle worked for a corporation formed by his mother that was developing homes on a 13-acre property.

According to the statement LaBelle signed, the project "was financed with money provided by one of LaBelle's brokerage customers."

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In addition to not providing notice of his role in the real estate venture, LaBelle "falsely confirmed that he had fully disclosed his outside business activities on two annual compliance questionnaires," the statement said.

In Pittsfield, LaBelle operated Berkshire Retirement Strategies at 2 Cheshire Road.

Reached by phone Thursday through his Pittsfield business number, LaBelle referred questions about his status as a financial adviser to an attorney, David J. Freniere, who represented him in the FINRA case.

Freniere said from his Wellesley office that because the FINRA violation is not related to the sale of securities — stocks and bonds — LaBelle is not prevented from doing business in the investments sector.

"He intends to continue to work in financial services, I believe," Freniere said.

Even before the FINRA suspension ends in April, Freniere said, LaBelle could affiliate with a firm that is not a member of the regulatory entity.

The website for Berkshire Retirement Strategies was found to not be functioning when checked Thursday afternoon.

According to FINRA's online BrokerCheck Report database, LaBelle remains a defendant in a Berkshire Superior Court civil action that began in August 2018 and also is before Judge Agostini.

The court docket shows that the case was brought by Michael and Holly Baccoli.

"Plaintiffs allege advisor made misrepresentations on the terms of a promissory note he recommended [that] Plaintiffs purchased in February, 2016, and without authorization withdrew money to purchase the note from the Plaintiffs' tax deferred accounts," reads a summary provided in the FINRA database.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-588-8341.


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