A Hudson Valley man will spend years behind bars after being busted for operating a multi-million dollar investment club that was actually a Ponzi scheme targeting a Haitian community, federal authorities announced.
Rockland County resident Ruless Pierre, age 52, of Nanuet, has been sentenced to 84 months in prison in connection to a Ponzi-like securities fraud scheme that targeted his own community in the region.
Specifically, Pierre was convicted of securities fraud, wire fraud, and structuring offenses by a jury in May 2021.
US Attorney Damian Williams said that between 2016 and 2019, Pierre coerced investors by promising unrealistically high rates of return of at least 20 percent every two months.
In reality, Pierre suffered heavy losses trading securities and concealed them by using new investor funds to pay older investors and issuing false account statements showing investment gains.
Pierre allegedly financed the fraud by using money that he embezzled from a former employer to make interest payments to investors.
During the course of the investment scheme, Pierre fraudulently obtained more than $2 million from approximately 100 investors, which was deposited into a personal bank account he controlled, Williams said.
Despite his trading losses, Pierre repeatedly and falsely represented to investors, Williams said, including in investment statements containing fictitious balances, that the trading was profitable and that their investments were growing as promised.
Prosecutors noted that Pierre used his ill-gotten gains to live a luxurious life, including the purchase of high-end vehicles, and to make redemption payments to investors “in Ponzi-like fashion.”
Beginning in 2018, Pierre also began to offer investors the opportunity to purchase partnerships in multiple fast-food franchises, despite not owning any of them and only being in discussions to buy them.
Williams said that the Silent Partnership Agreements promised the investors a 5 percent monthly return on the investment, in addition to a 40 percent pro-rata share of the quarterly gross operating profit, with a minimum initial investment of $5,000.
Pierre deposited the fast-food franchise investors’ money in various bank accounts, and proceeded to fraudulently misappropriate some of the fast-food franchise investors’ money to pay back investors in the previous fraud scheme.
Prosecutors said that more than $200,000 was gained in that scheme, with the “vast majority” of investors not being paid their promised return on investment before the franchise went out of business in less than a year.
“Ruless Pierre violated the trust of his closest friends and fellow community members. Pierre’s brazen lies caused many of his victims not only financial losses, but long-lasting emotional damage as well,” Williams said.
“This sentence achieves some measure of justice for Pierre’s victims and puts fraudsters on notice that we will protect investors from those that would violate their trust.”
In addition to his prison term, Pierre was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, ordered to forfeit $3,701,893.91 and to pay $2,030,337.32 in restitution to his victims.
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