Belize has been on the international news on multiple occasions for various reasons stemming from tourism to global representation and a hideaway for criminals. Tonight’s story is not about any criminal hiding out in Belize but rather it is about a set of schemers who used Belize as their marketing tool to obtain over one hundred million dollars from over one thousand US investors. The Federal Trade Commission in the United States has temporarily shut down the operation via an order from the federal district court in Maryland. The real estate investment development in Belize goes by the names, Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay and/or The Reserve. A LIVE press conference was held this morning by the FTC at their headquarters in Washington DC. The conference was led by Jim Kohm, Associate Director of the division of enforcement.
Jim Kohm, Associate Director of the division of enforcement, Federal Trade Commission:“The action that FTC is announcing today hauls a very sophisticated scan that targeted American Consumers specifically small business owners who are largely looking for retirement property. The scheme co-acted in more than 100 million dollars in hard earned savings of unsuspecting consumers through the sale of more than 1000 lots of land based on false promises. Last week the FTC filed three contempt actions and new complaint against 17 entities and 8 individuals including a hard core recidivous scammer named Andre Puckie who is the mastermind of the scheme from the beginning through yesterday. Astonishingly Mr. Puckie was imprisoned for obstructing justice in the FTC’s original case here the Ameridebt Case while he continued to run scam. Puckie and other individuals lured people with a deceptive pitch that they could build their dream home in luxurious development on attractive land in Southern Belize but instead of getting their dream home buyers found themselves in a nightmare. Here’s how the scheme worked: in repeating marketing pitches and prant online and on TV Puckie and his cohorts promised potential buyers a piece of luxury community that they were building in coastal Belize. They claimed that this sanctuary would offer top of the line amenities like an American style hospital staff by US doctors and nurses, a world class arena, a luxury hotel, shops and restaurants and an near by international airport.”
The promises made to the investors are extremely outrageous as mentioned by Kohm. We went looking to see what exactly they were up to on the digital market and here is a snippet of a 30-minute infomercial circulating internationally for Sanctuary Bay.
One hundred million dollars – it is quite a very attractive sum to have collected on false promises. So, where exactly did all this money go? Kohm says they have been able to track some of it.
Jim Kohm, Associate Director of the division of enforcement, Federal Trade Commission: “They also claimed that they took 100% of lot sales and put them back into the development of the property and that would allow them to finish the property quickly in two to five years, these claims were crucial to people’s decision to buy what they thought would be retirement homes in a beautiful remote property in southern Belize, unfortunately these claims were all false. The FTC asked Dr. Richard Prizor, one of the countries leading authorities on large scale development to analyze the viability of the Sanctuary Belize project, according to Dr. Prizor building facilities like a promised hospital in a remote area of Belize is not economically sustainable. He also explains that contrary to defendants claims, a no debt model where you are simply putting investment back into the development without borrowing money actually significantly increases the risk of the project due to the lack of liquidity and oversight, because no debt financing severely restrict the cash flow available for any project the defendants claims that they put all the money they got back into the project was particularly important, however like their other claims this claim too was a lie. Instead of putting money back into the development, the defendants diverted millions of dollars to pay for their own personal expenses, for example in violation of a prior court order in the Ameridet case Puckie used more than $3,000,000 from lot sales to pay off a loan from a friend, a loan that he had taken out to get out of jail in the Ameridate case. He also took money to remodel a luxury home in Southern California and to squirrel away millions of dollars with his family and friends as one of Pucki’s former accountants admitted. All though millions of dollars flowed through the Sanctuary Belize accounts, relatively little went to construction expenses in Belize. The people who invested in Sanctuary Belize were sophisticated consumers and many did their own due diligence before investing. That process often led to the discovery that Mr. Puckie a convicted felon was associated with the development, needless to say that this was big red flag for many but when prospective buyer made inquiries the defendants again simply lied. They said that Puckie had nothing to do with the development or had only a very limited role.”
While the FTC is trying to help investors get back their monies, they have taken swift court action through the court against the players.
Jim Kohm, Associate Director of the division of enforcement, Federal Trade Commission:The receiver has taken control of the operation and a preliminary injunction is currently scheduled for November 19th. The court actions so far is that culmination of an exhaustive investigation conducted over the past year. The FTC filled more than 14,000 pages of evidence included testimony from insider telemarketers, the defendants accountant, internal email from the scheme, numerous undercover calls by FTC investigative staff posing as prospective buyers, expert testimony and the testimony of people who have lost tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Love News reached out to the Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte to discuss the matter but he has yet to respond to our request.