Almost five years to the day after Bernard Madoff was arrested in Manhattan, federal prosecutors in New York – yes, in New York – have charged a man with wire and mail fraud for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme.
The indictment alleged that Rocco, while acting as the president of a soccer club in his town, solicited club members, volunteers, friends, and neighbors to invest money in a series of businesses that he formed, including Limestone Capital Services, Advent Merchant Services, LLC, and Advent Equity Partners, LLC, that Rocco claimed would earn high rates of return on investments. Rocco allegedly told investors that they would receive returns of up to 18 percent of their principal investment annually through the companies’ investments in ventures that purportedly included providing loans to finance wholesale cigarette purchases on behalf of the Shinnecock Nation tobacco shop and a credit card processing venture.
The indictment charged that Rocco solicited and received approximately $5 million in investor money between 2006 and 2013, which was not invested as promised. Instead Rocco allegedly misappropriated the money and, additionally, solicited money from new investors that he used to pay purported profits to earlier investors, thus concealing the earlier misappropriation. Rocco also is alleged to have sent fraudulent account statements to investors that falsely showed that investors’ accounts had earned high rates of return.
The indictment further alleged that Rocco controlled the bank accounts and records of the soccer club and did not permit others to have access to them. Between January and March 2010, Rocco allegedly deposited $66,915 in checks from the soccer club into Limestone and later distributed the proceeds of the checks to early investors in Limestone, leaving the soccer club with no funds to operate. In April 2010, Rocco allegedly sought and received donations to allow the club to continue operations.
“As alleged in the indictment, Rocco employed fraud and deceit to victimize friends and neighbors and even used his local soccer club to further his schemes. His promises of high returns were illusory, propped up by false account statements,” stated U.S. States Attorney Loretta Lynch.
“As alleged in the indictment, Rocco mastered the role of con artist when he traded upon his relationship with friends and colleagues with empty promises of high financial returns in exchange for their investments. While not physically violent, Rocco’s alleged actions had a significant impact on the lives of his victims who lost their hard earned money to someone they trusted. The FBI will continue to vigorously investigate those who prey upon and defraud members of our community for their own personal gain,” stated George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York field office.
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