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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Man of God’ Conned Him, Says Retired Bus Driver

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A "con man" who preys on Latinos, claiming to be "a man of God," defrauded an elderly man of his life's savings, the retired bus driver claims in court.

Jose Carrillo sued Luis Berrios and LBA Express in Superior Court, alleging elder abuse and fraud.

"For the last many years, Berrios has preyed upon individuals in the Hispanic/Latino community through a variety of investment scams," the complaint states.

"Put simply, Berrios is a con man who makes his living by cheating hard-working people out of their life savings. Using religion as a mode of gaining access to his prey, Mr. Berrios dazzles people with superficial signs of wealth and financial success. Wearing a flashy fancy, driving an expensive car, and passing out shiny brochures depicting images of one-hundred dollar bills, airplanes, tour buses, and attractive women, gives the intended impression of wealth and success."

Carrillo, a retired bus driver in his mid-60s whose income comes from Social Security and a modest pension, claims Berrios duped him of $35,000 he invested in LBA Express, a shuttle service to Las Vegas. This money was most of Carrillo's life savings.

"In face to face meetings, Berrios represented to plaintiff that for each $5,000 he invested with him, plaintiff would receive $200 per month for 12 months or $500 every 3 months and would then be paid back his full principal investment of $5,000," Carrillo says in his complaint.

"Berrios told plaintiff that his investment was 100 percent safe as the investment would be backed by the vehicles owned by LBA Express, including full-sized modern tour buses and commuter vans.

"Berrios did not call the money received from plaintiff as a loan, but rather defendants called plaintiff a 'Corporate Associate,' which was described as being equivalent to a S/H [undefined] - with ongoing ownership benefits.

"Berrios further represented that he had many years of experience operating the business, that he was an expert money-manager and entrepreneur, and, of course, that he was a man of God."

Carrillo says he gave $35,000 to Berrios in $5,000 monthly payments, for which he received seven promissory notes in Spanish.

"Defendants paid plaintiff per the terms of the agreements during the time plaintiff was 'investing' new money with Berrios, meaning through April 2012," Carrillo says. "However, as soon as plaintiff had fully invested with defendants, the monthly payments to plaintiff stopped. That is to say, the last income payment received from defendants was April 2012.

"In May 2012, Jose Carrillo telephoned Berrios to ask where his monthly payment was. Berrios told him that the secretary had made a mistake and forgot to mail out the check. Some days later, after no money arrived, Carrillo telephoned Berrios again to inquire where his monthly payment was. More lies were given."

Berrios signed an agreement in September 2012, promising to pay back Carrillo all of his money, but not paid dime one, Carrillo says.

He wants his money back and punitive damages for financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

He is represented by David Speckman.

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