Pair charged in fraud scheme

first_img160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Two Westlake Village men defrauded dozens of victims of a total of $68 million, then used the money to purchase sports cars, race boats and a $447,000 Ulysses Nardine Genghis Khan model wristwatch, federal investigators said Tuesday. Robert Alvin Coberly and Curtis Devin Somoza, both 38, were arrested Tuesday at their homes on suspicion of operating a classic Ponzi scheme: using money from new investors to pay off older ones. Up to 70 victims were involved, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. “This was all ages and all kinds of victims,” said Steve Goldman, supervisory special agent for the FBI. “This is large for a fraud case.” Investigators said the men solicited investors beginning in 2003 to purchase pools of life insurance policies through their company, Persistence Capital, on behalf of a church-based organization in South Los Angeles. Clients were promised an annual return of 25 percent of their investment. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsWhile about $4 million was used to purchase two pools of life insurance, the other $64 million was spent “to further their lavish lifestyles,” including a 2003 Aston Martin automobile for $250,000; a 2003 Ferrari for $240,000, a 44-foot-long 2005 MTI Supercat race boat for $290,000 and the Ghengis Khan watch, said Goldman. Before Tuesday’s arrest, the two men had settled a civil case with the Securities and Exchange Commission on similar charges. But instead of life insurance policies, Coberly and Somoza sold $6.7 million worth of fraudulent “prime-bank” note investments. As part of the civil suit, the men paid back each investment with interest. Coberly and Somoza both face charges of mail and wire fraud; convictions carry up to 20 years in federal prison for each charge. Samoza was being held without bail Tuesday, while Coberly’s bail will be determined Thursday. Their arraignment is expected to be held June 19 in federal court. [email protected] (818) 713-3664last_img read more