Miami developer couple charged with $135M Ponzi scheme

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A pair of Miami developers have been charged with running a $135 million Ponzi scheme that targeted elderly investors from the Cuban-American community, the Securities and Exchange Commission said today. The developers, Gaston Cantens and his wife, Teresita, are the founders and co-owners of Royal West Properties, which promised its real estate investors annual returns of between 9 and 16 percent. The SEC alleges that the Cantens used money from new investors to pay off previous ones after property owners defaulted on their mortgages, as well as to fund their lavish lifestyles and those of their children and grandchildren. “The Cantens used their prominent standing in a close-knit Cuban-American community to ruthlessly exploit vulnerable elderly investors who trusted them with their life savings,” said Eric Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “They portrayed themselves as a pious couple closely involved with educational and religious organizations, while in reality they were living lavishly off money from defrauded investors,” he said. [Miami Herald]