SEC Accuses 14 in $415 Million Ponzi Scam

     BROOKLYN (CN) – The SEC on Tuesday charged 14 sales agents allegedly at the heart of a $415 million Ponzi scheme run by Agape World president Nicholas Cosmo.



     The SEC claims that the 14 defendants, who include four sets of siblings, got $52 million from illegally selling securities for Cosmo’s Long Island-based Ponzi scheme.
     The defendants “falsely promised investor returns as high as 12 to 14 percent in several weeks when they sold investments offered by Agape World,” the SEC said in a statement. “They also misled investors to believe that only 1 percent of their principal was at risk. The Agape securities they peddled were actually nonexistent, and investors were merely lured into a Ponzi scheme where earlier investors were paid with new investor funds. The sales agents turned a blind eye to red flags of fraud and sold the investments without hesitation, receiving more than $52 million in commissions and payments out of investor funds. None of these sales agents were registered with the SEC to sell securities, nor were they associated with a registered broker or dealer. Agape also was not registered with the SEC.”
     The SEC’s acting regional director said in the statement that the Ponzi scheme “spread like wildfire through Long Island’s middle-class communities because this small group of individuals blindly promoted the offerings as particularly safe and profitable.”
     More than 5,000 investors nationwide were suckered by the scheme from 2005 to January 2009, when. Cosmo was arrested. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $179 million in restitution.
     According to the SEC statement:
     Brothers Bryan Arias and Hugo A. Arias of Maspeth, N.Y., sold Agape securities to at least 195 and 1,419 investors respectively. They received more than $9.5 million combined in commissions and payments.
     Brothers Anthony C. Ciccone of Locust Valley, N.Y. and Salvatore Ciccone of Maspeth, N.Y., sold Agape securities to at least 535 and 348 investors respectively. They received more than $17 million combined in commissions and payments.
     Brothers Jason A. Keryc of Wantagh, N.Y. and Michael D. Keryc of Baldwin, N.Y. Jason Keryc sold Agape securities to at least 1,617 investors and received at least $16 million in commissions and payments. He also paid sub-brokers, including his brother, at least $7.4 million to sell Agape securities for him. Michael Keryc sold Agape securities to at least 177 investors and received more than $1 million in commissions and payments.
     Siblings Martin C. Hartmann III of Massapequa, N.Y. and Laura Ann Tordy of Wantagh, N.Y., were also charged. Hartmann allegedly enlisted his sister in his sales effort while he worked as a sub-broker for Jason Keryc. Hartmann and Tordy sold Agape securities to at least 441 investors and received more than $3.5 million in commissions and payments, the SEC said.
     Christopher E. Curran of Amityville, N.Y., who worked as a sub-broker for Keryc. sold Agape securities to at least 132 investors and received at least $531,890 in commissions and payments.
     Ryan K. Dunaske of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., who worked as a sub-broker for Keryc, sold Agape securities to at least 70 investors and received more than $700,000 in commissions and payments.
     Michael P. Dunne of Massapequa, N.Y., who worked as a sub-broker for Keryc, sold Agape securities to at least 99 investors and received more than $1.5 million in commissions and payments.
     Diane Kaylor of Bethpage, N.Y., sold Agape securities to at least 249 investors and received at least $3.7 million in commissions and payments.
     Anthony Massaro of Boynton Beach, Fla., sold Agape securities to at least 826 investors and received more than $5.9 million in commissions and payments.
     Ronald R. Roaldsen Jr. of Wantagh, N.Y., who worked as a sub-broker for Keryc, sold Agape securities to at least 159 investors and received more than $600,000 in commissions and payments.
     All these allegations are from the statement the SEC issued upon filing its lawsuit in Federal Court.

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