NEW YORK, April 25 (UPI) -- In a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in New York City, four people were charged with running a Ponzi scheme in which investors lost $179 million.
A statement from the U.S. Department of Justice said the defendants, account representatives with the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Agape World Inc. and Agape Merchant Advance companies, played criminal roles in amassing hundreds of millions of dollars from investors by offering to pay high rates of returns on ventures that provided bridge loans to businesses, and lying to investors about the status of the loans as the scheme began to unravel.
More than $400 million was acquired from about 5,000 individuals, 4,100 of whom sustained losses totaling $179 million, the statement said.
"As alleged, these defendants were essential in a blatantly exploitive scheme that preyed on people of finite means. Despite the sales pitch promising exorbitant rates of return, the only ones sure to get rich in the scheme were the defendants and their co-conspirators," FBI New York Field Office Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said.
The account representatives, Jason Keryc, Anthony Massaro, Anthony Ciccone and Diane Kaylor, each received commissions between $4.75 million and $16 million.
The founder of the two companies, Nicholas Cosmo, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2011 for his role in the plan.