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Ponzi Schemers Charged With Investment Fraud Targeting Haitian Community

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Enrique Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, announced that Maxo Francois, a/k/a “Max Francois,” Jean Fritz Montinard, Aiby Pierre-Louis and Maguy Nereus, a/k/a “Maguy Jean-Louis,” were charged today with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for their roles in a multi-million dollar ponzi scheme which targeted the South Florida Haitian-American Community. The defendants face statutory maximum penalties of up to 20 years on each count and fines of up to $16,000,000.

According to court documents, the investment scheme involved two businesses known as Focus Development Center, Inc. (“Focus Development”) and Focus Financial Group, Inc., a/k/a Focus Financial Associates, Inc. (“Focus Financial”), and centered around the sale of 12-month notes with a guaranteed annual return in excess of 15%. To convince people to buy these notes, the defendants made presentations in churches and on local radio stations claiming that Focus Development owned and operated successful businesses and that the money raised would be used to create Haitian-American businesses and jobs and improve the Haitian-American community. The defendants also told investors that their principal was secure and fully refundable and that the annual return would be paid from business profits.

The indictment alleges, however, that Focus Development and its affiliated businesses never generated sufficient profits to pay annual returns in excess of 15% promised to investors. Instead, the defendants used newly collected investor money to pay annual returns or “interest payments” promised to investors and to repay investors’ principal. The indictment further alleges that the defendants misappropriated money from investors for their personal use. As a result of the scheme, the defendants raised approximately $8 million from more than 600 Haitian-Americans living in South Florida who ultimately suffered a loss of approximately $6 million.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Postal Inspection Service and State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Selmore.

An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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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