A Sri Lankan investor Rienzi Edwards was charged by the US Justice Department in connection with a fraudulent high-yield investment scheme that resulted in the theft of over $50 million from investors in the United States and around the world, the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Edwards and his co-defendants allegedly concocted and carried out an audacious scam, promising investors exponential returns on investments they claimed were overseen by the New York Federal Reserve and backed by the US government. In reality, it was all a lie; there was no government-backed programme and no plan to invest, only an alleged plan to steal the investors’ money.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment: From at least June 2013 through August 2016, Rienzi Edwards, Michael Jacobs, Ruby Handler-Jacobs, F.K. Ho, Lawrence Lester and Rachel Gendreau orchestrated and executed a fraudulent high-yield investment programme known as the “Cities Upliftment Programme,” or CUP, which the defendants falsely told investors was operated by the New York Fed. The scheme was principally designed and operated by Edwards, with the assistance of Jacobs and Handler-Jacobs, and was marketed to investors around the world through brokers, including Ho, Lester, and Gendreau.”
The statement also said that, Michael Jacobs, Handler-Jacobs, Lester and Gendreau were arrested by the US law enforcement authorities. It also said that Edwards and Ho are currently at large. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe. Arraignment is scheduled for December 20, 2016, in federal court in Manhattan.
“Edwards, 55, of Sri Lanka, Jacobs, 64, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Handler-Jacobs, 64, of Albuquerque, New Mexico are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of conducting monetary transactions in unlawful funds, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to impersonate employees of the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of five years; one count of impersonating employees of the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of three years; and aggravated identity theft, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.”
Meanwhile, online edition of our sister paper The Sunday Times quoting Rienzie Edwards said that he rejected accusations against him by the US Justice Department of involvement in swindling investors to the tune of over US$50 million.
“In the first place, no one has informed me from the US or the US embassy (here) of these charges. Furthermore I am an investment banker and advises clients (from many parts of the world). I don’t make any investments,” he told Times On-line in a telephone response in Colombo.
Mr. Edwards said he didn’t know the other accused, four of whom have been arrested.
Accordingly, Rienzie had been previously under investigation in Sri Lanka by the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID).