NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Robert Bales, accused killer of 16 Afghan civilians, at one time had ambitions to become a Wall Street Master of the Universe the old-fashioned way: by ripping off the public, working alongside Mob-linked stockbrokers.It's not clear to what extent Bales' life was influenced by his days as a stockbroker for marginal-to-sleazy brokerages in Florida and Ohio. But it must have been significant, because he spent four years in the armpit of the securities industry. In recent days, attention has focused on an NASD arbitration award from 2003, which he did not contest, stemming from his days as a stockbroker in the 1990s. It found Bales and other brokers liable for ripping off an elderly Ohio couple, and ordered him and others to pay $1.5 million. That turns out to have been just one episode from Bales' four-year journey through the bottom-feeding netherworld of the microcap market -- the world of boiler rooms, overvalued stocks and systematic investor rip-offs. Bales worked for five brokerages from 1996 to 2000 -- including one firm, the Hamilton-Shea Group, whose undisclosed principals later pleaded guilty to felonies and had Mob ties. Their firm was subsequently expelled from the securities industry. Interestingly, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records show that three of the firms where Bales worked were interconnected, and linked -- through personal or corporate ties -- to Hamilton-Shea. That would seem to indicate that Bales may have been part of a "crew" of brokers who moved from place to place during the 1990s. However, that could not be independently confirmed. Though Bales himself had no known connection to the mob, a person intimately familiar with the players of the era tells me that Hamilton-Shea was under the undisclosed control of two heavy-hitter penny-stock brokers who had connections to Philip C. Abramo, a capo in the DeCavalcante crime family and one of the leading Mafia figures involved in microcap brokerages during the era. According to FINRA records, Bales began work at Hamilton-Shea in Pompano Beach, Fla., in July 1996, the same month in which he passed his Series 7 broker license. It was customary in those days for brokers to work for firms as unlicensed cold-callers before they obtained brokerage licenses. However, it's not known if Bales worked at Hamilton-Shea before getting his license.