| Columns |

Hialeah Man's $40 million Ponzi Scheme Nets More Arrests

Nine more individuals have been criminally charged in the ongoing federal investigation into a $40 million ponzi scheme in Hialeah. The arrests come in the wake of news reports that the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service are investigating Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina for alleged loan sharking, mortgage fraud and tax evasion based on his dealings with Luis Felipe Perez, the 38-year-old mastermind behind the scam. Perez, aka "Felipito," is cooperating with authorities, allegedly providing information about Robaina and other supposed white collar criminals in the City of Progress.

Robaina should pay close attention to the latest bust since one of the nine suspects, Reinaldo Roman Jr., claimed he was a victim of Perez, just like the Hialeah mayor has insisted to CBS4 and the Miami Herald. In filings with the federal court after Perez pled guilty to the ponzi scheme and bank fraud, Roman put in for $1.2 million in losses from a line of credit he had obtained from Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo). 

According to the federal indictments against Roman and the others, they were able to fraudently obtain commercial lines of credit with the assistance of Berta Sanders, a certified public accountant who worked for Wachovia. 

Prosecutors claim they defrauded the bank out of $12 million, the proceeds ending up financing Perez's ponzi scheme. Roman is accused of jacking $700,000. 

Perez admitted to funneling the nine suspects to Sanders, who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. She was getting a 10 percent kick back for preparing the loan documents and making sure the suspects were approved. Sanders faces sentencing on February 22.

When the ponzi scheme collapsed in 2009, most of the fraudulent loans obtained from Wachovia defaulted.

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