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Nonprofit Says It Was Scammed for $2M

(CN) - An Ohio-based Ponzi scammer used his businesses, Money Market Alternative and Hybrid Money Market Management, to bilk a Swedish nonprofit of nearly $2 million, the Vasa Order of America claims in Cuyahoga County Court, Cleveland. The Akron Beacon-Journal reported that previous lawsuits accused lead defendant Enrique Villalba of taking as much as $18 million in the Ponzi scam.

Villalba ran his businesses out of Beachwood, Ohio. The Vasa Order, a fraternal organization that gives scholarships to Swedish immigrants to the United States, says Villalba duped them by promising a high rate of return through "scientifically based" techniques.

Vasa says Villalba misrepresented his credentials and sent them bogus financial statements. Eventually the statements stopped coming, and Villalba "left his residence and abandoned his offices," according to the complaint.

Vasa says that the FBI and SEC have told it that its money probably has been "diminished or extinguished."

The Beacon-Journal reported that Villalba was sued in Akron and Seattle in 2009, on allegations that he bilked clients and friends of $18 million in a Ponzi-scheme. Plaintiffs in those cases said that Villalba used their money to run his Rico Latte coffee shop - and to cover a $330,000 judgment against him in 1997 for investment fraud.

Vasa demands $1.8 million for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, conversion, and securities fraud. Villalba's wife, Michelle, who recently filed for divorce, and his two children, Tiffany and Anthony, are also named as.

Vasa's lead counsel is Bruce Elfvin with Elfvin Besser.

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