Targeting church members and factory workers, an investment speaker and his firm bilked investors in Puerto Rico, Florida and elsewhere of at least $7 million, according to a federal regulatory lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Ricardo Bonilla Rojas of Puerto Rico and his firm, Shadai Yire, promised risk-free investments and double-digit rates of return to as many as 200 investors recruited primarily from groups of evangelical Christians and factory workers, theU.S. Securities and Exchange Commissionsaid in its suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The SEC said Rojas has also been charged with criminal fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico.
"Rojas targeted novice investors who were often evangelical Christians, and he touted a long history of successful trading in commodities," the SEC's Miami director, Eric I. Bustillo, said in a prepared statement. "In reality, he was fleecing the flock."
The SEC suit alleges that the scheme occurred from August 2005 to February 2009. Neither Rojas, who lives in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, nor his firm was ever registered with the SEC to sell securities, regulators said.
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