Three men, including one in the East Bay, were charged today by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a fraudulent investment scheme that allegedly bilked 70 victims out of $10 million.
Reportedly taking sums from investors that started in the tens of thousands of dollars, the trio was charged with 32 felony counts, as the Chronicle reports. Christopher Mancuso was arrested in Orange County on Thursday, and Joseph Tufo was arrested in Contra Costa County. A third defendant, John Black, remains at large and was last known to be in the Sacramento area, the AG's office said.
As KPIX reports, unlike a Ponzi scheme in which some investors saw any supposed returns, Mancuso, Tufo, and Black are charged with taking sums from victims' life savings and retirement accounts and splitting them amongst themselves. They allegedly made grand promises, like being able to triple a $25,000 investment in a matter of months. When clients would call or email about their investments, the defendants reportedly just ignored them — or, as they recently are accused of doing, made excuses about the pandemic making withdrawals impossible.
The men were known to operate under the business names Financial Tree Trust, Financial Solutions Group Trust, and New Money Advisors, LLC.
It's unclear how many investors might have seen some of their money returned — per KPIX, the accused men "mainly kept it for their own personal financial gain."
"It takes a particular kind of callousness to rob people of their life’s savings by selling them on false hope," Becerra said in a statement. "That’s the kind of fraud the defendants in this case have allegedly committed. We’re talking about as much money as some families earn in an entire year gone in just an instant. These are savings that can mean all the difference in getting a child through college or being able to retire. Unfortunately, these kinds of scams aren’t new. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is."
Authorities have frozen the bank and cryptocurrency accounts of the defendants, suggesting that at least some of the alleged victims might see some of their funds returned.
The federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission separately has a civil suit filed against the trio as well.