Henderson Man Charged with Defrauding Investors of over $20 Million in Mining Claim Scam
Las Vegas, Nev. – A resident of Lake Las Vegas was indicted by the Federal Grand Jury today on fraud charges for soliciting numerous individuals in the United States and Japan to invest millions of dollars in various purported mining projects in Peru, California, Nevada, and Guyana, announced Steven W. Myhre, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Alberto DoCouto, age 64, of Henderson, Nevada, is charged with Wire Fraud, Securities Fraud, Fraudulent Interstate Securities Transactions, Making a False Statement, and Visa Fraud.
According to the court records, it is alleged that Alberto DoCouto created or caused the incorporation of numerous business entities and limited liability companies, including West Nevada Precious Metals Corporation, Vista Continental Development Corporation (Vista), and Miranda Mining LLC. DoCouto has no known expertise nor any appreciable experience in mining precious metals, but nonetheless made, and caused others to make, false representations that he and his numerous corporate alter egos were actively engaged in exploring and developing a series of lucrative mining claims at sites in Peru, California, Nevada, and Guyana.
DoCouto allegedly solicited and persuaded others in the United States and Japan to invest millions of dollars in his companies and in the various alleged mining projects. DoCouto repeatedly represented to investors that their investments were needed to bring these projects to fruition. Investors in these projects typically received shares of stock in Vista, and the investments were often secured by promissory notes guaranteeing repayment of the funds within a certain period. More particularly:
- Peru Mining Claims: Beginning no later than 2001, DoCouto solicited and persuaded investors in the United States and Japan to invest millions of dollars in a Peru mining project which he claimed held vast proven deposits of gold and other precious metals worth millions or billions of dollars. In exchange for the funds invested in the purported mining project DoCouto issued shares of stock and promissory notes guaranteeing repayment of the investments. However, DoCouto did not develop or engage in substantial mining operations in Peru, but he instead diverted and converted most of the funds he obtained from investors for personal purposes, expenses and luxuries.
- Twentynine Palms, California: By 2003, DoCouto had spent most of the funds he had obtained from investors in the Peru mining project on personal expenses. In early 2003, DoCouto solicited individuals to invest in another purported mining project near Twentynine Palms, which DoCouto claimed held gold deposits worth millions of dollars. In order to promote the investment opportunity, DoCouto drove an investor from Las Vegas to Twentynine Palms, (in a Bentley automobile which he had purchased previously with proceeds from the scheme) to view the purported site and claims. Relying on DoCouto's representations, an investor transferred $1 million to DoCouto for the alleged Twentynine Palms mining operation. Once again, DoCouto did not use the invested funds to develop any substantial mining operations in or near Twentynine Palms, but instead converted the $1 million investment for his own use.
- American Canyon Project: By June 2003, DoCouto approached investors with yet another purported investment opportunity. DoCouto told investors that in spite of his best efforts, the mining project at Twentynine Palms could not proceed because the mining site was a habitat of endangered tortoises. DoCouto told investors that he had begun mining operations at the "American Canyon Project" in northern Nevada, and that the site held deposits of gold and precious metals worth at least $18 million. DoCouto convinced at least one investor to invest $5 million in exchange for Vista stock and a promissory note guaranteeing repayment of the funds within three years. In truth, the mining claims did not hold any proven deposits of precious metals, and DoCouto once again converted a substantial portion of the funds to his personal purposes, including for the purchase of a 6,000 square foot residence at Lake Las Vegas.
- Guyana Diamond Mine: In late 2003 or early 2004, before the American Canyon Project had proven to be a sham, DoCouto approached investors with yet another investment opportunity involving diamond and precious metals mining operations in Guyana. DoCouto persuaded investors to commit millions of dollars to the project. One such investor was the All Japan Liquor Merchant Association (a Japanese pension fund), which invested approximately $6.4 million in the Guyana project. Contrary to DoCouto's representations, investors did not receive any return on their investments, and DoCouto did not repay the funds, but converted a substantial portion of them for his own personal use, including for the payment of personal expenses and the purchasing of luxury automobiles and other items.
The Indictment also alleges that on January 8, 2002, DoCouto made a false statement in an application for an immigrant United States visa by stating that he had never been charged, arrested or convicted of any offense when he knew that he had previously been charged with several crimes in Canada, and that DoCouto knowingly obtained and possessed an immigrant United States visa through false claims, statements or fraud.
Additionally, the indictment requests forfeiture of the proceeds of DoCouto's crimes, including DoCouto's home at 10 Placa De Rei Court at Lake Las Vegas, a 2002 Bentley Arnage, a 2003 Mercedes Benz SL55, and a 2004 Cadillac Escalade.
DoCouto was arrested on August 24, 2007, and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley on August 27, 2007. Judge Foley found that DoCouto was a flight risk and danger to the community, and ordered him detained pending trial. DoCouto is scheduled to be arraigned on September 14, 2007, at 8:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leavitt.
It is estimated that numerous persons fell victim to the defendant's alleged scheme. Any individuals who believe they may have been victims of this alleged scheme are asked to contact FBI Special Agent David Nanz at (702) 385-1281.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the United States Bureau of Land Management, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy S. Vasquez.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.