Fort Lauderdale Fraudsters Scammed Investors With Fake Colombian Disney World, SEC Says
E-Monee.com Inc. -- if you were writing a movie script and needed to cook up the name of a shady online outfit, that's probably a good candidate. Not surprisingly, the real-life E-Monee.com is being charged with fraud by the feds. The two heads of the Fort Lauderdale company talked big about lucrative investment opportunities and projects in countries in South America, including a Colombian amusement park and oil contracts with Hugo Chavez. In reality, the business was hustling penny stock worth little to nothing, according to a suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission last week.
The scam ran between January 2010 and May 2011, according to the court filing. E-Monee President Estuardo Benavides and board member Robert B. Cook tried to sell investors on the company's stock.
The pair allegedly passed along a whole range of too-good-to-be-true data points to investors. For one, they claimed E-Monee was holding onto $5 billion in bonds from the Central Bank of Mexico. They also claimed that the company had an oil contract going with the Venezuelan government and that they were building a Disney World-like park in Colombia.
And if the experience of an undercover Secret Service agent named "Luke" is any indication, these dips were also supposedly promising their marks incredible jumps in value.
"Cook told Luke that if he invested $1.00 per share in E-Monee now, his investment could easily be worth $5 a share by year's end, and top out at around $10 a share," the complaint says. "Benavides and Cook had no reasonable basis for their projections that E-Monee's share price would be worth $5 to $10 a share."
The cherry on top of the sales pitch? The hustlers told investors a U.S. congressman (unnamed in the complaint) was game for the business opportunity, supposedly as a member of the board.
Now, come on. This is like magic beans-level bullshit. Mexican bonds? Venezuelan oil? A Colombian Disney World? U.S. congressmen? Sure, there are are investors out there willing to drop some small change on a long shot, but the promises here alone set off the scam-meter.
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