Ex-insurance agent pleads guilty in investment fraud

CLEVELAND (AP) - A former insurance agent has pleaded guilty to stealing $5.3 million from his clients.

Dragan John Tijanich, 54, of Amherst, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to bank fraud in a deal that could keep him in prison for more than seven years. He will be sentenced July 16.

The former owner of the Tijanich & Associates agency in Westlake admitted that he lied to 50 clients when he told them that he put their money into real-estate deals that yielded high interest with no taxes.

He also led them to believe that New York Life Insurance, the company for which he was an agent, backed the deals.

The company had no idea about the investments because Tijanich stashed client money into bank accounts, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sammon.

Tijanich used the money to pay clients who wanted to cash in their investments or collect interest. He falsified statements to hide his scheme.

Tijanich's scheme lasted six years. In December, a client who lost $170,000 called New York Life about the investment, prompting the company to call the FBI.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)