The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against a Hudson Valley investment adviser who allegedly operated a multimillion-dollar investment club that was actually a Ponzi scheme targeting the Haitian community.
Nanuet resident Ruless Pierre, 50, was charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and structuring charges by the SEC in an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court this week after he was involved in a pair of fraud schemes.
The SEC's complaint alleges that Pierre ran an investment club called the Amongst Friends Investment Group in Nanuet that operated as a fraudulent Ponzi scheme. From March 2017, Pierre allegedly raised more than $2 million from at least 100 investors, mostly Haitian New Yorkers, who purchased high-yield promissory notes through Amongst Friends.
It is alleged that 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.
The complaint also alleges that Pierre fraudulently raised upwards of $375,000 from more than 15 investors related to a scheme involving the sale of partnership interests in a fast-food chain.
“It is alleged Pierre perpetrated a securities fraud and embezzlement scheme that swindled investors out of millions of dollars and misappropriated even more from his employers’ business,” Peter Fitzhugh, Special-Agent-In-Charge of the New York Field Office of U.S. ICE, said. “He then flashed his illicit gains by buying high-end luxury vehicles and his own fast-food franchise. Pierre’s deceptive business practices left more than a hundred victims in its wake
It’s alleged that in November last year, Pierre began to sell partnership interests in the fast-food franchise, with agreements that falsely guaranteed monthly returns of 10 percent, plus quarterly profit sharing. As alleged, at the time he sold those interests, Pierre knew that the franchise could not provide sufficient profits to pay investors the promised returns.
“As alleged, Ruless Pierre engaged in two separate schemes. In one scheme, Pierre allegedly promised an improbable 20 percent return on investors’ money, every 60 days, through stock trading,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman stated. “In reality, Pierre’s stock trading consistently generated losses for investors, and Pierre secretly used investors’ funds for his own personal use, including the purchase of luxury cars and even a fast-food franchise.
“In another scheme, Pierre simply stole money from his former employers, brazenly moving money from their bank accounts to his personal bank accounts. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our law enforcement partners, Pierre’s schemes have come to an end, and he now faces serious time in federal prison.”
If convicted, Pierre will face up to 20 years in prison on each of the charges.
Philip Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Postal Inspection service added, “Mr. Pierre used his ties to the Haitian community, his trusted reputation in that community, and convincing pitch to target and cheat hundreds of victims in an illegal Investment Ponzi scheme.
"Postal Inspectors remind consumers if an investment promises unusually high returns, it’s likely bogus. Don’t let greed override common sense.”
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