SEC Busts Alleged Puerto Rico Ponzi Scheme

On August 21, 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") charged a Puerto Rico resident and his company with running a Ponzi scheme that targeted evangelical Christians and factory workers in Puerto Rico. This is another in a long line of misconduct that has caused Puerto Rico investment losses.

The SEC alleges that Ricardo Bonilla Rojas and his firm Shadai Yire raised at least $7 million from as many as 200 investors. The investors live primarily in Puerto Rico, but some also reside in Florida, New York, and North Carolina. According to the SEC, Rojas solicited investors through telephone and in-person discussions. He also marketed his scheme to evangelical Christian groups and factory workers, many of whom were inexperienced investors.

Rojas falsely assured investors that their principal contributions were "100% guaranteed" and promised returns up to 50 percent, telling investors that he would be investing their money in commodities. But Rojas never actually invested any money in commodities and instead used new investors' money to pay "investment returns" to earlier investors, in classic Ponzi scheme fashion. Rojas also allegedly stole $700,000 for himself. the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico separately announced criminal charges against Rojas.

According to the SEC's complaint, Rojas and Shadai Yire ran the fraudulent scheme from at least August 2005 to February 2009. Rojas, who resides in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and his company Shadai Yire have never been registered with the SEC to offer securities. Rojas and his sales agents pitched the scheme as a risk-free way to earn high returns in a short period of time. Rojas also sent fake account statements to investors, leading investors to believe their investments were growing.

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