SEC Takes Down Another Ponzi, Agency Says; Ricardo Bonilla Rojas Faces Civil And Criminal Charges After Allegedly Aiming Puerto Rico-Based Scheme At Evangelical Christians And Factory Workers

The SEC has gone to federal court in Puerto Rico, alleging that Ricardo Bonilla Rojas was operating a $7 million Ponzi scheme targeted at evangelical Christians and factory workers.

Victims in the case hail from Puerto Rico, Florida, New York, and North Carolina, the agency said.

Rojas, 53, is a resident of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. He presided over a company known as Shadai Yire and duped investors by making them believe he was purchasing commodities, the SEC said.

But “Rojas never actually invested any money in commodities and instead used new contributions to repay earlier investors in classic Ponzi scheme fashion,” the SEC charged. “He stole $700,000 for himself.”

About 200 investors were affected by the scheme, which began “at least” in August 2005 and continued until February 2009, the SEC said.

Rojas also has been charged in a parallel criminal action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, the SEC said.

“Rojas targeted novice investors who were often evangelical Christians, and he touted a long history of successful trading in commodities,” said Eric I. Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “In reality, he was fleecing the flock.”

Elements of the SEC’s Rojas case are reminiscent of the alleged Commodities Online caper in Florida. The SEC sued to halt that scheme last year.

“Rojas hired some sales agents to help him solicit investors, and paid commissions based on a percentage of the investor funds they raised,” the SEC said. “Rojas and his sales agents pitched the investment opportunity to individuals as a risk-free way to earn high returns in a short period of time. Rojas also created phony account statements that were sent to investors to hide his misuse of investor money and lead them to believe their investments were growing.”

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