State Attorney: Two SWFL men arrested in $6 million Ponzi scheme
This is a six-month review of the most-read crime stories in Collier County on naplesnews.com from September 2018 to February 2019. Wochit
The State Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit announced the arrests of two men Wednesday in a suspected multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.
According to the Twentieth Judicial Court, Joseph Bernard Charde, 72, of Lee County, and Allen Roy Duquet, 68, of Collier County, face numerous charges. Charde has been charged with six felonies including RICO Conspiracy while Duquet is facing 38 additional felony charges including RICO and RICO Conspiracy.
RICO is a shortened reference for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.
The State Attorney’s Office investigation has identified 26 victims of the believed frauds with a total dollar amount stolen in excess of $6 million.
Duquet was originally arrested by the State Attorney's Office in January after a complaint by a Charlotte County resident who invested money through Duquet.
Duquet is accused of taking money for real estate investments and spending the escrow money instead of utilizing the money properly towards the intended purchase, according to the State Attorney's Office.
A financial analysis was done during the investigation revealing a complex fraud scheme during which Charde acted as a broker to the transactions made by Duquet as an agent, according to the State Attorney's Office.
The men owned a company called Oneir Sales and Rentals LLC on Marco Island.
Investigators discovered that the suspects ran an investment program called “The Commission Resource Program," according to the State Attorney's Office.
The investment program constituted a Ponzi scheme in which investors were led to believe that they would get big returns on their money, according to the State Attorney's Office.
Instead, the money was used to pay back other investors, make up the shortfall of stolen escrow funds, or for personal. Investors lost about $1.9 million in the scheme, according to the State Attorney's Office.
Duquet is also accused of misappropriating escrow funds from a victim who sold property to the Sunseeker Resort on Charlotte Harbor.
The victim gave money to the Duquet to purchase properties to build the resort.
Duquet is accused of stealing money from other victims when it came time to close on the properties because he had already spent the money given to him, according to the State Attorney's Office.
Twentieth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Amira Fox said the case was complicated to untangle for the assigned investigators.
"I commend them for the many hours of hard work and dedication it took to put this case together," Fox said in a press release.
There could be more victims who have yet to come forward in the case, Fox said.