Attorney General Becerra Announces Arrests and Charges in International Investment Fraud Scheme, Secures Freeze of Financial Assets and Real Property
Alleged illicit operation resulted in the theft of more than $10 million from over 70 victims around the world
Defendants allegedly lured victims in some instances by promising to triple or quadruple investments in four months or less at little to no risk
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney Xavier Becerra today announced arrests and filing of charges against Christopher Mancuso, John Black, and Joseph Tufo for allegedly operating a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme that targeted more than 70 victims around the world. The defendants allegedly lured victims in by promising incredible returns on their investments at little to no risk, but would then keep the money and split it amongst themselves. As part of today’s action, the California Department of Justice also secured orders freezing the defendants’ assets, including bank accounts, cryptocurrency, and real property. The criminal complaint charges the defendants with a total of 32 felonies for operating a fraudulent securities scheme, grand theft, and investment fraud. Mancuso and Tufo were arrested today in Orange County and Contra Costa County, California respectively. Black is currently at large and his last known whereabouts were in and around Sacramento County.
“It takes a particular kind of callousness to rob people of their life’s savings by selling them on false hope,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s the kind of fraud the defendants in this case have allegedly committed. We’re talking about as much money as some families earn in an entire year gone in just an instant. These are savings that can mean all the difference in getting a child through college or being able to retire. Unfortunately, these kinds of scams aren’t new. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. We all have to be vigilant and keep an eye out for bad actors. At the California Department of Justice, we’ll continue to work to protect our communities from fraud and deceit.”
The charges and arrests announced today are the result of a joint effort by California Department of Justice prosecutors and special agents in the White Collar Investigations Team, which works to take on financial crimes that can potentially devastate families by depleting their life savings, bankrupt companies, or cost taxpayers billions of dollars. The criminal complaint announced today alleges that between March of 2015 and January of 2020, the defendants willfully and unlawfully engaged in fraud and deceit to rob victims of millions of dollars. Altogether, the defendants are estimated to have allegedly stolen more than $10 million from victims around the world, including California, other states, Canada, Germany, England, and Italy.
Individual victims allegedly lost a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars each by being fraudulently induced by the defendants to invest in Financial Tree Trust, Financial Solutions Group Trust, and New Money Advisors, LLC. In some instances, victims were allegedly defrauded of their savings by being told that they could triple an investment of $25,000 in just four months. In another instance, the defendants allegedly promised to quadruple an investment of $100,000 in just three months. However, when these investments came due, the defendants would allegedly ignore calls and emails or tell various lies, including that there were delays being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of returning the money, the defendants allegedly mainly kept it for their own personal financial gain.
Today’s action by the California Department of Justice is separate from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s civil case against the defendants.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting public safety and taking on financial crime. Earlier this month, the Attorney General announced a two-year jail sentence and tens of thousands of dollars in restitution as a result of the takedown of a bogus investment scheme. He also secured nearly $1 million in restitution and seized approximately $775,000 in counterfeit apparel. Last month, the Attorney General secured a felony tax evasion conviction and seized more than $1.5 million in unlicensed tobacco products. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed dozens of felony charges related to human trafficking, labor exploitation, and sexual assault. Earlier that year, he also secured a two-year prison sentence against the owner and operator of a retail clothing store for a multi-million dollar tax evasion scheme. If you believe you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud, you can learn more about what to do and report it here: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers.
It is important to note that criminal charges are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.
A copy of the complaint is available here.