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Friday
Jan252019

Ponzi in Paradise? Florida Keys Men Accused Of $7 Million Ponzi Scheme

Three Florida Keys residents were arrested by state authorities and accused of running a Ponzi scheme that duped investors out of at least $7 million.  Jose Luis Leon, 56, Richard Renner, 56, and Natalie Marie Rogers, 53, were arrested earlier this month on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, securities fraud, organized fraud, and 1st degree grand theft.  The trio could face significant prison time if convicted of all charges, as the racketeering charges alone carry a maximum 30-year prison sentence.  The charges come after at least five victims filed civil suits against the company and obtained judgments.  

Renner and Leon were the general partners of Strategic Holdings Group Ltd. ("SHG"), a Florida company organized in 2001.  In allegations by authorities and various civil lawsuits against SHG, Leon and Renner purportedly solicited investors through word-of-mouth and advertising by claiming to pay annual returns exceeding 8% (and in some instances 3% quarterly) through various investments including oil-and-gas ventures and the funding of an international bank.  Investors were required to reinvest all purported profits into their account for a one-year "lock up period," after which they could request a withdrawal of any earnings.  While little is known about SHG’s purported victims, one civil suit alleges that Leon's brother-in-law was a victim.  Below is a "Fact Sheet" that was distributed to at least one investor:

While investors were provided with periodic statements showing their account balance and consistent earnings, investors apparently began encountering difficulties in withdrawing their funds beginning no later than 2016.  SGH was administratively dissolved in 2017, and one investor alleged in a civil suit that Leon's father-in-law had called Leon a "crook" and indicated that Leon's house was in foreclosure.  At least five investors sued SGH, Renner, and Leon for their failure to return their funds and have since obtained final judgments totaling more than $2 million.

According to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, SGH operated a Ponzi scheme whereby investor funds were misappropriated by Leon and Renner for personal expenses including mortgage payments, credit card bills, and cash withdrawals.  

Leon and Renner remain jailed on $1 million bond each while the Miami Herald reports that Rogers is free after posting $30,000 bail.  

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