The Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges Tuesday against two South Florida financiers who allegedly defrauded Latin American investors and made them invest up to $127 million in mutual funds, the Miami Herald reports.
The SEC charged that in a "sham" scheme to enrich themselves, Coral Gables executives Luis M. Cornide and Robert de la Riva, directors of Pension Fund of America, misrepresented fees and costs to investors, distributed vital investment information in English only and forged documents to gain the trust of Central and South American investors.
The complaint noted 3,400 alleged victims, but this number could grow because institutional investors, including Guatemalan social security and military pension funds, also entrusted money with the Pension Fund of America.
"The defendants have failed to disclose to investors that their entire investment program is a sham designed to enrich themselves and their agents," the SEC complaint charged.
U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore, responding to the civil complaint, froze bank accounts and other assets belonging to Cornide and de la Riva, issued temporary restraining orders and appointed Thomas G. Schultz as receiver for a handful of related financial companies that Cornide and de la Riva founded in Florida and the Cayman Islands.
Ultimately, federal authorities will present evidence to try to prove the fraud charges and permanently shut down four firms: Pension Fund of America and the third-party administrator Claren TPA, both of Coral Gables; PFA Assurance Group, the insurance issuer, and PFA International, which was used to pay sales commissions to a network of agents. The latter two firms are registered in the Cayman Islands.
The complaint alleges that Cornide and de la Riva misappropriated more than $15 million of the money for themselves.