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Alleged scheme targeted Haitians, bilked $23M

Alleged scheme targeted Haitians, bilked $23M

A man is accused of bilking thousands of Haitian-Americans of more than $23 million in an investment scheme where he promised to create a "nation of Haitian millionaires."
George Theodule used his Haitian background to urge Haitian-Americans nationwide to form investment clubs and funnel funds through his Florida-based company, Creative Capital, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday.
"This alleged Ponzi scheme preyed upon unsuspecting members of a close-knit community, attempting to take advantage of the trust they had in each other," said Linda Chatman Thomsen, the SEC's enforcement director.
Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks issued an emergency order Monday to halt the alleged scheme and freeze the company's assets.
An e-mail and a phone message left for Theodule's attorney, and messages left at phone numbers listed for Theodule were not immediately returned.
Theodule held face-to-face meetings where he drew his investment plan on dry erase boards and flip charts, and his company raised at least $23.4 million since November 2007, regulators said.
"He pitched himself as a man of God who was going to create a nation of Haitian millionaires," said attorney Jared Levy, who filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Theodule on Friday.
A minimum investment of $1,000 per investor was required. Theodule only accepted cash, and targeted churches with large Haitian populations, Levy said.
Theodule, 48, allegedly guaranteed a 100 percent return on all investments within three months. Investors were also promised that Creative Capital's trading profits were being used to fund startup businesses in Haiti, Sierra Leone and the Haitian community in the U.S, the SEC said.
However, Theodule lost at least $18 million trading stocks and options over the last year and repaid investors with money collected from new investors, according to the SEC complaint.
Theodule continued to promise huge returns with no risk _ a 200 percent return after one year _ even as the global economy staggered, Levy said.
Most investors gave Theodule $5,000 to $10,000, though some invested their life savings, Levy said.
"He preyed on people who didn't have much investment experience," Levy said. "He would tell them they didn't have enough money to open brokerage accounts themselves."
Theodule also mixed the investors' money with his own and took at least $3.8 million for personal use, including two luxury vehicles, a down payment on a house, credit card bills and payment for a wedding, regulators said.
"We want to recover all the money that investors gave to this guy," Levy said.


Updated : 2021-05-18 15:55 GMT+08:00