Yet another South Florida mini-Madoff has been nabbed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for robbing unsuspecting investors out of their hard-earned cash. Luis Felipe Perez allegedly stole $40 million from 35 investors from 2006 through 2009 until his Ponzi scheme unraveled when he couldn't find new investors.
Like the Florida grocery scam uncovered earlier this year, Perez promised investors lavish returns, as much as 120 percent, from investments in his jewelry business and pawn shops in New York. But, that’s not exactly what he did with the cash.
Investors thought they were investing in two of Perez's companies, Lucky Star Diamonds Inc. and Luis Felipe Jewelry Design Corp. As an added layer of security, he said their money was collateralized by diamonds, but those of course turned out to be fake.
"He stole at least $6 million for lavish personal spending on limousines, extravagant dinners, bodyguards, and political contributions that helped bolster his image in the local community," the SEC said in a release.
With stolen money he bought a $3.2 million home, artwork, spent about $100,000 a year on travel, and about $1 million on jewelry. He also gave a generously to local and national politicians including Republicans Lincoln Diaz-Balart, John McCain and Norm Coleman.