News and Press Releases

MIAMI JEWELER PLEADS GUILTY TO $40 MILLIONPONZI SCHEME AND $12 MILLION BANK FRAUD SCHEME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2010

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, and Miguel Exposito, Chief, City of Miami Police Department, announced that Luis Felipe Perez, 38, of Fort Lauderdale, pled guilty on September 23, 2010 to securities fraud in connection with a $40 million Ponzi scheme. In a separate but related case, Perez also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with a $12 million scheme. Sentencing has been scheduled for December 2, 2010 before U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck.

In court, Perez admitted that from approximately 2006 through mid-2009, he solicited funds from approximately 35 individuals in exchange for promissory notes or oral loan agreements. Perez falsely informed investors that they would be investing in his jewelry businesses or in pawn shops located in New York City. In fact, however, only a small portion of investor money was used for Perez’s jewelry businesses and none of the money was ever invested with any pawn shops. According to the charges and documents filed in court, Perez also promised investors high returns from these investments of between 2% to 10% monthly, which would result in 24% to 120% paid annually. In fact, however, Perez created an unsustainable Ponzi scheme in which he used the monies collected from new investors to pay the returns promised to the earlier investors.

When prospective investors told Perez that they did not have money available to invest with him, he referred them to a Certified Public Accountant named Berta Sanders, who is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud with Perez. Sanders then prepared fraudulent loan applications on behalf of these investors, which were submitted to Wachovia Bank. These false loan applications contained false information about the borrower’s business income, assets, and accounts receivable. Sanders also prepared false tax returns, bank statements, and personal financial statements in connection with the line of credit applications. Once the borrowers received the proceeds from the fraudulent loan applications, they invested most of the funds in Perez’s Ponzi-scheme. When Perez’s Ponzi scheme ultimately collapsed in May 2009, most of the fraudulent loans obtained from Wachovia subsequently defaulted.

Most of Perez’s investors never recovered their investments, while Perez made millions of dollars and lived an extravagant lifestyle that included a multi-million dollar home, expensive cars, and international travel. The loss created by Perez’s participation in these fraudulent activities is approximately $37 million.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, U.S. Secret Service, and the City of Miami Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew K. Levi and Richard Gregorie.

This law enforcement action is sponsored by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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