Miami couple charged with running $135m Ponzi scheme

8 March 2010

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged a couple in Miami of running a $135 million ponzi investment scheme.

Gaston and Teresita Cantens, the owners of Royal West Properties, sold a series of promissory notes to investors, which promised returns of up to 16 per cent.

The couple, who are both in their seventies, conducted the fraud between 2002 and 2009 and used investments to reimburse earlier investors and fund new projects.

Up to $20 million worth of money is thought to have been taken by the pair as a salary and to pay for other businesses.

In a statement, Eric Bustillo, director of the SEC's Miami regional office, said the pair “used their prominent standing in a close-knit
Cuban-American community to ruthlessly exploit vulnerable elderly investors who trusted them with their life savings”.

He added that the couple created an image which was at odds with their criminal activities.

However, Seth Gordon, a spokesman for the Mr and Mrs Cantens, said it was "regrettable that the SEC would so mischaracterize the business difficulties of Gaston and Teresita Cantens and Royal West Properties."

The company was declared bankrupt in 2009.

By Jim Ottewill

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