Florida businessman, Gaston Cantens (“Cantens”), pleaded guilty today to wire and mail fraud in connection with a real estate scheme that targeted members of South Florida’s Cuban-American community. Cantens faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on April 4.
According to Federal prosecutors, more than 150 investors, including the Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami (“Belen”), lost approximately $47 million dollars between 2003 and 2008. Cantens graduated from the Belen school when it was still located in Havana, Cuba, prior to its move to Miami in 1961.
Prosecutors claimed that Cantens used his prominent standing in South Florida’s Cuban-American community to induce investors to invest in real estate through his company Royal West Properties, Inc. (“Royal”), promising returns as high as 16 percent. According to court documents, Royal sold real estate investments in Florida beginning in 1993, got into financial trouble around 2002, and ultimately declared bankruptcy in 2009.
According to prosecutors, Cantens used money received from newer investors to pay older investors like a Ponzi scheme. Many of the harmed investors were vulnerable, elderly members of the Cuban-American community who trusted Cantens with their life savings.
Eric Bustillo, Regional Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Miami office called it a typical affinity fraud. Affinity fraud refers to an investment scam that preys upon members of an identifiable group, such as a religious or ethnic community. In this case, prosecutors claim that Cantens preyed on individuals associated with the Belen school and members of the Cuban-American community.
Investors nationwide who have been the victim of investment fraud, may contact the Florida investment fraud attorneys at McCabe Rabin, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation by calling toll free at 877.915.4040 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.