Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2018. 7:12 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), on Thursday, announced that it had temporarily shut down a real estate scam in Belize worth $100 million. The FTC said the scheme was the largest case of real estate fraud that it has uncovered in its history.
The “Sanctuary Belize” development attracted investors from across the US to buy at least 1,000 lots in the country, with the lure of building dream retirement homes in an upscale community with every conceivable amenity including a world-class arena, hospital and international airport. Investors were promised that their investments would double or triple in a matter of years. Andris Pukke, a convicted American felon, placed ads on Fox News to attract retirees, according to US media outlets.
The FTC, however, says that only about 10 percent of purchased lots were developed over a 15-year span. During that time PUkke had been indicted and served time in prison in connection with a separate “get-out-of-debt” scheme. The FTC says Pukke continued to direct the Belize fraud from jail, despite assurances from his cohorts to investors that he was no longer involved.
Prosecutors believe the Sanctuary Belize developers are about half a billion dollars short of the capital they would have needed to complete the development. They regularly pitched a “no debt” financing model to potential buyers, which ultimately meant the project was low on liquidity, especially since Pukke is alleged to have siphoned off money from his investors to pay off a loan connected to his bail and finance a personal home in California.
In addition to Pukke, more than 25 other people and entities are named in the new civil complaint, including Sanctuary Belize principal Luke Chadwick and Atlantic International Bank, a Belize-based institution, which the FTC said is the first foreign bank it has ever brought an action against. The FTC created an undercover sting operation, it said Thursday, forming a fake exercise and fitness company that it used to get information from those directly involved in the scheme.
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