MIAMI (CN) – A Miami couple bilked elderly Cuban Americans in a $135 million real-estate Ponzi scheme, diverting more than $20 million to fund personal business ventures and to “pay themselves exorbitant salaries,” the SEC claims in Federal Court.
Gaston Cantens, 71, and his wife, Teresita Cantens, 73, co-owners of Royal West Properties, allegedly guaranteed investors up to 16 percent annual interest on promissory notes purportedly backed by real estate in southwest Florida.
Through Royal West, the couple raised more than $135 million from hundreds of investors, “many of them from South Florida’s Cuban-exile community,” the SEC claims.
Though the Cantens touted the company’s success, the SEC says Royal West “operated at a loss starting no later than 2002.”
“In classic Ponzi scheme fashion, the Cantens used new investor funds to pay principal and interest to earlier investors, and to fund Royal West’s ongoing business operations,” the lawsuit states.
The SEC wants the couple to provide a full accounting, disgorge any ill-gotten gains and pay civil penalties for their alleged securities fraud.
The agency is represented by senior trial counsel C. Ian Anderson.