Three Operators of Financial Services Firm Indicted for $155 Million Investment Fraud
BROOKLYN, NY (STL.News) An indictment was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn charging three former operators of financial services firm Biscayne Capital with conspiring to defraud investors and financial institutions in an international fraud scheme that caused more than $155 million in investor losses. Roberto Gustavo Cortes Ripalda (“Cortes”), Fernando Haberer Bergson (“Haberer”) and Ernesto Heraclito Weisson Pazmino (“Weisson”) are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. Weisson was arrested yesterday in Florida, made his initial appearance yesterday afternoon in federal court in Miami and was ordered held pending a detention hearing. Cortes and Haberer were arrested yesterday in Spain and Argentina, respectively.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office (IRS-CI), and Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Washington, D.C. Field Office (HSI), announced the arrests and charges.
“As alleged, the defendants orchestrated a complex and fraudulent scheme to repeatedly mislead investors about the nature and performance of their investments. The defendants enriched themselves with millions of dollars in investor funds while making misrepresentations that caused more than $155 million in investor losses,” stated Acting United States Attorney Kasulis. “The charges demonstrate this Office’s commitment to ensuring integrity in the management of investor funds and prosecuting those who commit fraud to enrich themselves at their investors’ expense.” Ms. Kasulis also expressed her appreciation to the IRS-CI Boston Field Office for their assistance with the case.
“The charges unsealed yesterday reflect the seriousness of criminal activities carried out by the defendants. Our agency, and particularly the D.C. based Global Illicit Financial Team, remains dedicated to rigorously investigating criminal organizations that jeopardize the integrity of our financial system,” stated IRS-CI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Waldon.
“Financial schemes like the one alleged here not only damage the lives of those victimized by the fraud, but the international money laundering involved poses a direct threat to the security of the U.S. financial system,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Villanueva. “HSI is committed to working with its law enforcement and private sector partners to investigate these criminal enterprises and stop them in their tracks.”
As alleged in the indictment, Biscayne Capital was a financial services company founded in approximately 2005 and maintained offices in Florida, Ecuador, Argentina, the Bahamas and Uruguay. Between approximately 2013 and 2018, Cortes, Haberer and Weisson, together with others, orchestrated a scheme to defraud Biscayne Capital clients and financial institutions through a series of material misrepresentations and omissions about how Biscayne Capital client funds would be used. The defendants and their co-conspirators used the funds they fraudulently obtained from clients and financial institutions to pay other investors, cover Biscayne Capital expenses and pay themselves millions of dollars.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants and their co-conspirators falsely represented to some Biscayne Capital clients that the clients’ investments in certain private investment products (referred to in the indictment as “Proprietary Products”) would be used to finance the development of real estate projects. In reality, the defendants and their co-conspirators used clients’ investments to pay other Biscayne Capital clients. In some cases, the defendants and their co-conspirators invested in Proprietary Products without the clients’ knowledge and provided clients with fraudulent account statements that showed fake investments. The defendants and others also conspired to fraudulently induce financial institutions to extend short-term credit to help further the scheme. Haberer then generated fake letters of authorization to repay the banks out of Biscayne Capital clients’ accounts without those clients’ authorization.
In approximately September 2018, the scheme collapsed, and Biscayne Capital went into liquidation, resulting in more than $155 million in losses to Biscayne Capital clients.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section and the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset and Recovery Section (“MLARS”) and Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorneys David Gopstein and Benjamin Weintraub of the Eastern District of New York, MLARS Trial Attorneys Randall Warden and Shaunik R. Panse and Fraud Section Trial Attorney John (Fritz) Scanlon are in charge of the prosecution. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in this matter.
ROBERTO GUSTAVO CORTES RIPALDA
FERNANDO HABERER BERGSON
ERNESTO HERACLITO WEISSON PAZMINO
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-458 (DG)