SEATTLE (CN) - An investment adviser stole $17 million in a Ponzi scam and used the money to buy a "Rico Latte" coffee stand and pay off previous judgments for investment fraud, more than a dozen people claim in Federal Court. Enrique Villalba claimed to have a "proprietary momentum filter" that was "based on the study of physics," the investors say.
Villalba started "Rico Latte" with money that was supposed to have been used to buy money market accounts and stock, the investors say.
The 17 plaintiffs say Villalba sent account statements that were "financial fiction" showing return rates of 21 percent, and they paid taxes on "dividends" that were "simply made up."
The investors say Villalba was sued in California for investment fraud in 1997 and used their new money to satisfy the $330,000 judgment against him. They also suspect he skimmed money to fund his other businesses, including Hybrid Money Market Management, Money Market Alternatives and Villalba Management.
Villalba lives in Ohio. The investors also sued his wife, Michelle Villalba.
Some plaintiffs say they lost millions of dollars. They want their money back and damages for securities violations, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.
They are represented by Chris Youtz with Sirianni Youtz.