Ponzi schemer Cantens gets five years

April 06, 2012 03:00PM

Gaston Cantens

Real estate businessman turned Ponzi schemer Gaston Cantens was sentenced to five years in prison by a U.S. District Judge, the Miami Herald reported.

Cantens started his real estate investment firm, Royal West Properties, as a legitemate business, making speculative transactions in Southwest Florida, the prosecution and defense agreed, according to the Herald.

He gathered more than $135 million from 150 mostly elderly Cuban-Americans by promising large yields that he couldn’t fulfill when the housing market went bust. “Investors were not paid from performing mortgages, as Cantens repeatedly told investors,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Davidson wrote in court papers. “Instead … Cantens paid, in part, old investors from money that Royal West received from new investors.”

Cantens also used the same piece of property as collateral for multiple investments.

Though he pleaded guilty in January, Cantens had been hoping for long-term home confinement so he could care for his ailing wife. However, the judge determined that his sons could fulfill that duty. [Miami Herald]