A Florida woman of Haitian descent was charged on July 26 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for using a “Ponzi-like” scheme to swindle 80 investors out of approximately $900,000, the SEC announced.
According to the allegations, Alexandra Robert, 23, of Palm Beach County and two companies she owns (Chalala Academy LLC and Lendvesting Academy Corp) raised the ill-gotten gains from targeting Haitian-Americans living in South Florida through an unregistered securities offering.
From 2020 to 2021, the companies offered investment programs that promised “risk-free” returns up to 48% and made false claims online to unsuspecting investors.
“As alleged, Robert and the two companies made statements on the company’s website and via social media claiming they raised more than $4 million from more than 1,000 investors, paid out $2.6 million in profits to investors, and were going to pay guaranteed investment returns from underwriting loans to small businesses,” the agency stated.
Instead of following through on the investment strategy, she allegedly used the invested funds to “make Ponzi-like distributions to investors.”
A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud in which scammers promise their victims big returns by investing their funds. But instead of executing the investments, the fraudsters pay existing investors with money collected from new investors, according to investor.gov.
Robert spent some of the funds she raised to invest in cryptocurrency for herself and to make payments on her rent, car and education, as well as to purchase beauty supplies and for cosmetic surgery, according to the complaint.
The agency filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charging Robert and her companies with violating the registration and antifraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, as well as other charges.
“The SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement of allegedly ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, civil penalties against each of the defendants and an officer-and-director bar against Robert,” the agency stated.