Former Agape Employees Convicted On All Counts By Jury In Massive Ponzi Scheme
Defendants And Their Co-conspirators Caused Losses Of Approximately $150 Million
Earlier today, after four weeks of trial, a federal jury in Central Islip, New York, returned guilty verdicts against Diane Kaylor and Jason Keryc, former employees of Hauppauge-based Agape World, Inc. (Agape), on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud. The charges arose out of the defendants’ participation in a huge Ponzi scheme. When sentenced by United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each count. Keryc was remanded.
The verdicts were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
“Kaylor and Keryc convinced thousands of hard-working, middle class Americans to invest their life savings, their children’s college funds, or their retirement money in Agape, knowing that Agape was a Ponzi scheme,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “The defendants’ motive was simple and all too common today: greed. The more money the defendants pried out of investors’ pockets, the larger their commission checks. The defendants gained the trust of their investors and then betrayed that trust to feed their insatiable appetites for money.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for their assistance in the case.
“What was intended as a get-rich-quick scheme was, in fact, a cowardly plan. A plan that deceived unwitting investors and lured them into a false sense of security, while promising unrealistic returns on their investments. Unlike those convicted today, the FBI and our partners intend to keep the promises we make to those who invest their faith in us. Those who employ schemes to capitalize on the pain and suffering of others will most certainly be brought to justice,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
“The Postal Inspectors are committed to protecting the American Consumers from falling victims to these types of frauds. We have a robust program in fraud prevention and when warranted, as such as this case, prosecuting defendants through the efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office,” stated Postal Inspector-in-Charge Bartlett.
Nicholas Cosmo founded Agape in August 2000. Earlier, Cosmo spent 21 months in a federal prison for defrauding investors. Kaylor and Keryc were aware of Cosmo’s prior fraud conviction, but, not surprisingly, did not disclose this information to their investors. Between October 2005 and January 2009, the defendants, who worked as account representatives or brokers for Cosmo, played critical roles in the operation of the Ponzi scheme by soliciting and obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars from investors. To induce investments and discourage withdrawals, the defendants misled the investors by (1) assuring investors that their investments would only be used to fund specific, short-term secured bridge loans to commercial borrowers, or to make short-term loans to small businesses; (2) promising to pay investors unusually high rates of returns; and (3) representing that investing in Agape carried little or no risk of loss. The defendants raised significantly more money than was needed for the loans, and lied to the investors by assuring them that their money would specifically be used to fund only a particular loan. For their efforts, Kaylor and Keryc made approximately $3.4 million and $8.9 million, respectively.
Cosmo and the defendants paid returns to Agape investors, not from any profits earned on investments, but rather from existing investors’ deposits or money paid by new investors. The defendants and their coconspirators took more than $370 million from approximately 5,000 investors. Of that $370 million, only $22 million actually went to fund bridge loans. Unbeknownst to investors, approximately $113 million of their money was used to trade high risk futures and commodities.
As the fraudulent scheme began to unravel, Kaylor and Keryc continued to deceive investors about Agape’s financial health and the status of various Agape bridge loans. In the summer of 2008, Agape stopped paying commissions to the defendants and asked them not to cash checks for fear that the checks would bounce. On November 3, 2008, the defendants learned that all of Agape’s 2007 bridge loans were in default or on extension but once again did not disclose this information to existing or new investors. Rather, they actively continued to solicit money from investors, obtaining an additional $13 million. As a result of the Ponzi scheme, approximately 3,800 investors sustained actual losses totaling approximately $147 million.
On October 14, 2011, Cosmo was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 25 years in United States v. Nicholas Cosmo, 09 CR 255 (DRH), for his role in the scheme. In addition to the convictions of Cosmo, Kaylor, and Keryc, the government’s investigation led to the conviction of six other defendants for their roles in this scheme, who are pending sentence before Judge Hurley.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Long Island Criminal and Civil Divisions. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher C. Caffarone, Bradley T. King, Grace M. Cucchissi and Vincent Lipari are in charge of the prosecution.
Bethpage, New York
Wantagh, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 12-CR-357 (S-4)(DRH)