hot-topic rightForty-one-year-old financial advisor Stephen Severio of Fair Haven was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday after admitting that he defrauded clients out of more than $700,000, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Many of the 34 clients Severio admitting bilking were elderly, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, which handled the case.

According to the Press, Severio’s lawyer, Mitchell Ansell:

described Severio as a gambling addict and otherwise law-abiding citizen who lost his career and family, and ultimately all the money, due to his addiction.”What fuels him is in no way an excuse for what he did,” Ansell said.

Severio is in treatment for his gambling problem, Ansell said, and has cooperated with the investigation throughout the case.

“He is not trying to hide behind what he did,” Ansell said.

One victim of Severio’s scam, John Choma Sr., also of Fair Haven, spoke at sentencing, and said that Severio was a “friend” who built up trust with his clients before turning on them.

“For many, many years we trusted Steve to do the right thing,” said Choma, a Monmouth County Jail employee for 25 years.

“You’re about to enter a new experience today,” he said to Severio. “I hope your incarceration is merciful to you.”

Wiping tears from his eyes, Severio addressed Choma and several other victims sitting in the courtroom during the sentencing.

“I’m sorry. I know I caused you and your families a lot of pain,” he said. “(I will) do everything I can when I get out to make it whole.”