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Buyersnet victim list grows

Amid government bailouts of major financial institutions and the pursuit of fraud charges against fund managers like Bernie Madoff, state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) called on prosecutors to renew their focus on one Jackson Heights company that allegedly bilked numerous immigrant families out of more than $1 million in investments.

Nearly a year has passed since Queens residents alerted Peralta to problems with Buyersnet, a real estate investment company. Since then, a few people have gotten some of their money back, but Buyersnet has shuttered its Web site and Queens storefronts and Chief Executive Officer Giancarlo Giuseppe have disappeared, Peralta said.

“Here we are again, take two,” Peralta said during a news conference outside Buyersnet’s former headquarters at 82nd Street and 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. He thanked state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown for investigating the company, but asked for an expedited conclusion. The list of victims has grown from 12 to more than 60, and the amount lost from a few hundred thousand to $1.3 million, Peralta said.

“Maybe $1.3 million doesn’t seem like a lot ... but it meant the world to the people standing behind me.”

Peralta said the investigation has been slowed by the fact that most of the immigrants gave cash to Buyersnet rather than writing checks, making the payments much harder to track.

Bronx resident Miguel Canizares said he lost $20,000 to Buyersnet after the company convinced him he would earn a high rate of return on his investment. When he asked for his money back in July 2008, he said he was strung along for months.

“They made so many excuses,” he said. We hope one day we will see our money again.”

Some duped investors, like East Elmhurst resident Monica Ivulich, did get some of their money back. Ivulich was one of the first constituents to complain to Peralta about Buyersnet. She received $20,000 of her $25,000 back before the company folded.

“I want this to stop,” she said. “They were doing advertising and the people came here like flies.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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