Accused Real Estate Fraudster Extradited From Spain
HOUSTON - Robert Alan Berry, 60, is set to appear in federal court following his extradition from Spain on charges of wire fraud and money laundering in relation to an international real estate scam, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Berry, a U.S. citizen formerly in Calistoga, Calif., is charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.
The scam Berry allegedly executed affected residents of Houston as well as people in other cities in the U.S. and other countries around the world.
The four-count indictment charging Berry was returned Feb. 26, 2014. It alleges that in 1998, Berry co-founded Pelican Eyes Piedras y Olas S.A. (PEPO) as a hotel and resort in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The resort grew over the next 10 years, but its financial health declined during that time, according to the allegations. Investors had provided approximately $31 million to PEPO and Berry built more than 60 units through two phases of development. However, the indictment alleges Berry ultimately sold more units to investors than he could afford to build.
In an attempt to keep the resort going, Berry allegedly turned to fraud. The charges indicate he lied to investors and lenders in order to obtain millions of dollars in investment funds and loans. Berry also would sell the same unit to more than one buyer, use already sold units as collateral for loans or sell units that he had already pledged as collateral, according to the allegations.
In October 2009, PEPO suffered a financial collapse, at which time Berry fled Nicaragua, eventually settling in Spain.
With the assistance of Interpol and Spanish authorities, Berry was arrested Oct. 24, 2014. He was eventually transported to the United States and arrived in Houston Feb. 6, 2015. He is set to make his initial appearance on the charges at 2:00 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years on each count of wire fraud as well as a maximum of 10 years for each of the money laundering charges. Both convictions also carry a possible $250,000 fine.
The charges are the result of an investigation by IRS-CI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Johnson is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.