Miami Jeweler Admits Fraud Charges

Miami jeweler Luis Felipe Perez, 38, pled guilty
on Sept. 23 to securities fraud in connection with a $40 million Ponzi scheme,
a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of
Florida said.

Perez also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in
connection with a $12 million scheme. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 2, 2010.

Perez admitted to soliciting funds from approximately
35 individuals in exchange for promissory notes or oral loan agreements. Perez
told investors they would be investing in his jewelry businesses or in pawn
shops in New York City, according to the statement from the U.S. attorney’s
office. But only a small portion of investor money was used for Perez’s jewelry
businesses and no money was invested with pawn shops, the statement says.

According to the charges and documents filed in
court, Perez promised high returns to investors but actually created a Ponzi
scheme in which monies from new investors paid the returns promised to earlier
investors.

In the bank fraud scheme, an alleged Perez
accomplice named Berta Sanders is charged with preparing fraudulent loan
applications and other phony documents for some investors, the statement says.