A handful of middle-aged alleged fraudsters in northern Broward has been charged with a whole bunch of fraud and money laundering, accused by the U.S. Attorney's Office of raising more than $20 million for a fake investment scheme.
More than 700 folks were allegedly told they could invest in a company called Commodities Online LLC, which would buy them a share of existing contracts to buy and sell iron ore, fish, sugar, and other commodities. But... this is Florida, so those contracts didn't exist.
The indictment against James Howard III, Patricia Saa, Louis Gallo III, Michael Casey, and Rita Balbirer was unsealed this week. This isn't their first run-in with regulators.
In April 2011, the Securities and Exchange commission brought a suit against Commodities Online "for duping investors into funding a fraudulent scheme":
The company granted investors access to a website, where for a six-month subscription fee of $2,000, they could purchase participation units in various commodities contracts... In fact, Commodities Online performed only a limited percentage of the commodities transactions it promised investors."Instead, the heads of the company took the cash, the suit says.
The following charges from the U.S. attorney say that "the property listed in the indictment includes approximately $21,631,466 in proceeds from the charged offenses, and a Mercedes-Benz S63."
Because when you're cheating people out of millions, you just gotta have a Mercedes-Benz.
Everyone is in custody except Saa, who has not yet been arrested. Casey, one of the defendants, is a longtime lawyer and past chairman in the Broward County Bar Association, according to the Sun-Sentinel.