SEC Charges South Florida Woman Behind Ponzi Scheme Targeting Colombian-American Community
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a woman living in South Florida with defrauding investors in a Ponzi scheme and affinity fraud that targeted the local Colombian-American community and involved purported investments in immigration bail bonds.
The SEC alleges that Jenny E. Coplan told investors that her company Immigration General Services operated through an investment broker that would invest the funds she raised in immigration bail bonds and turn a profit. Coplan promised interest payments ranging from 60 to 108 percent annually. She also assured investors that their money was safe because it was insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, Coplan never placed investor funds with any investment broker, and their money was never FDIC insured. Instead, she paid supposed profits to earlier investors using funds from newer investors in classic Ponzi fashion, and she stole approximately $878,000 of investor money for her own personal use.
“Coplan deliberately misled investors into believing their investments were safe and secure when in reality she was lining her own pockets,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “Her predatory scheme exploited the trust and friendship of members of her own community by using empty promises to convince them to trust her with their hard-earned savings.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida today announced criminal charges against Coplan.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Miami, Coplan solicited investors through personal conversations over the phone and in person, and many of her targets were Colombian-Americans and Colombians living in Florida. She raised approximately $4 million from more than 90 investors in Florida, California, Georgia, Texas, Canada, and Colombia.
The SEC alleges that Coplan created fictitious investor statements that she disseminated to hide her misuse of the money and lead investors to believe their investments were growing. Furthermore, Coplan e-mailed one investor two purported FDIC statements reflecting insured balances of $107,000 and $250,000, lulling the investor to think the investment was particularly safe. When her scheme began to unravel in 2011, Coplan blamed the purported investment broker for the delay in interest payments to investors, telling them the broker held the investors’ funds to cover deficiencies because Coplan had failed to meet certain monthly investment quotas. Even though Immigration General Services had virtually no funds in its bank accounts and was unable to honor investors’ increasing redemption requests, Coplan tried in late 2011 to create a false appearance that the company was back to business as usual. She issued non-sufficient fund checks to investors purporting to be their monthly profits. Through her continued misstatements, Coplan was able to raise another $578,000 from new investors before the scheme collapsed entirely.
The SEC’s complaint against Coplan, who lives in Tamarac, Fla., seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, financial penalties, and permanent injunctions.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Jorge L. Riera and Karaz S. Zaki in the Miami office and supervised by Elisha L. Frank. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Amie Riggle Berlin. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.