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Based on information from state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), the Queens district attorney’s office charged a Long Island City woman found in Puerto Rico and her at-large housemate with operating a Ponzi scheme that took more than $1.3 million from Latinos in northwest Queens.
“This case is particularly egregious as the victims lost, in many instances, their entire life savings,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
Ibis Febles, 44, and Giancarlo Giuseppe, 68, both of whom live at the same address on 28th Street and Queens Plaza South, allegedly operated the Buyersnet Real Estate Corp. from September 2003 to October 2008, the DA said.
While running Buyersnet, Febles and Giuseppe allegedly convinced members of the Latino community to give the corporation money to buy, renovate or sell real estate, and in exchange those who lent the money could see a 10 percent, 12 percent or 14 percent return on their investment, the DA said. These rates, which were allegedly guaranteed with certificates promising a certain interest rate, were much higher than those paid by legitimate financial institutions, the DA said.
Those who invested their money, which was allegedly not used in real estate but used to pay interest dividends to earlier investors, sometimes ended up losing from $5,000 to $50,000 in the scheme, the DA said. Febles and Giuseppe allegedly did not pay the principal back to the investors before the business closed, the DA said.
With Febles acting as vice president and Giuseppe as president, the pair worked to bilk many Latino residents out of an office at their home address as well as a location in Elmhurst and two sites in Jackson Heights, the DA said.
On a tip from Peralta, who alerted the DA’s office to the scheme, Febles was found in Puerto Rico and brought back to Queens, the DA said. The DA charged her and Giuseppe, who remained at large as of press time Tuesday evening, with multiple counts of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, conspiracy, falsifying business records, scheme to defraud and petit larceny, the DA said.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho will preside over Febles’ planned arraignment and she faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, the DA said.
“Representing this community, I’ve seen immigrants targeted time and again by scammers and schemers,” Peralta said in a statement. “This was a particularly cruel case as the fraud often claimed all of a hardworking family’s life savings.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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