Alleged Ponzi Scheme Cheats Latinos of $10 Million

Victims of an alleged ponzi scheme in Queens are seeking justice for their losses, which may total more than $10 million.

Last Month, El Diario La Prensa reports, around 200 people gathered in Corona, Queens to file a complaint to the New York State Attorney General’s office, with the support of council member Julissa Ferreras’ office. The victims say that they were duped by Inversionistas Unidos (United Investors), and that some were scammed a second time after they also invested in San Francisco & Seattle Bancor Trust, with headquarters in Rego Park, Queens. Both companies share a phone number — which has been disconnected — and offices in the neighborhood.

One of the victims, Víctor Quichimbo, 45, indicated that the two companies worked together. He said that … he invested $35,000 in San Francisco & Seattle Bancor Trust. “I lost $25,000 to Inversionistas Unidos, and it’s likely that I won’t get my money back from the other company, either,” he said.

Manuel and Mariana Peralta, siblings from Ecuador who invested $33,000 and $85,000 respectively, demanded justice. “We know that the Queens District Attorney is investigating, but we also want the New York State Attorney General to be involved. We want the perpetrators to go to jail,” said Manuel.

In an article from Dec. 8, reported on an earlier protest, in which about 20 Latinos demonstrated in front of the Queens District Attorney’s office, calling for Inversionistas Unidos to be brought to justice. Once again, many of the losses numbered in the tens of thousands.

Investors hold up wanted signs of the heads of Inversionistas UnidosThey were people such as Francisco Galeano who invested $145,000 of his pension. “I started investing in January of 2010, first in exports and imports, and then in commodities. But they stopped my payments this year,” said Galeano.

Bernardo Patiño invested $190,000 and the only thing he received from Inversionistas Unidos was a check of $22,000 that bounced back from the back.

Teo Hernández wants his $27,000 back from Inversionistas Unidos. César Cuzco is waiting for 35,000 dollars. Martha López has waited since February of this year for a payment of $200,000. Franklin López is waiting to get a check of almost $200,000.

Ninfa Núñez and her two sons invested $25,000. “They took our money. This is a fraud,” said Núñez. “They should face this reality and pay for their actions,” said Cecilia Alvarez who wants to recuperate her $20,000 investment in Inversionistas Unidos.

“This is fraud and Liliana and Oswaldo took us as pigs. The government must do something and fast. These people are criminals and they want more time to hide themselves and the money they took from us,” said Carlos Londoño who wants his $50,000 back. “We are talking about a ponzi scheme of more than $10 million. We are tired of waiting for our money.”

What is Inversionistas Unidos? According to

Inversionistas Unidos started five years ago as a Partnership, but changed to a joint Venture to import and export vegetables and fruits from Latin America — Avocado and lemon from México, and sugar from Costa Rica. They also bought some properties in Colombia and Ecuador. In January of 2010, Inversionistas Unidos invested with Mario Cospin of San Francisco Bancor in Colombia and then lost $900,000.

The majority of investors are from Ecuador. There are also Colombians, Peruvians, Salvadorians, Mexicans and Guatemalans. Some of them are undocumented and invested all their savings in Inversionistas Unidos.

Who is behind the company? According to El Diario La Prensa:

Liliana Henao and Oswaldo Patiño

The head of Inversionistas Unidos, Oswaldo Patiño, 51, who has been living in the United States since 2002, also owned Patiño Imports Flowers, and Ecuahealth Consulting Business, which were operating in 2007.

It appears that both of these businesses worked the same way as Inversionistas Unidos. Patiño would offer services to fund the purchase, sale, and refinancing of real estate in the United States. He also imported products from Central and South America.

A source close to the investigation said that there could have been previous cases of fraud that went unreported. The office of the New York State Attorney General confirmed that there is no record of past complaints against Patiño.

Victims said that Patiño presented himself as an ex-soldier of the Ecuadorian airforce, with 25 years of experience in the import industry and with businesses in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and California.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Inversionistas Unidos, Liliana Henao, is being prosecuted for multiple counts of fraud by the Queens District Attorney, and she faces a lawsuit in New York City Civil Court in Queens for failure to pay over $16,000 in back rent for the Rego Park office. El Diario La Prensa tried looking for Henao:

In a telephone interview with Fanny Gil, Henao’s mother, who lives in Medellín, Colombia, Ms. Gil said that her daughter is in danger and has received serious threats.

Ms. Gil stated that Henao had bad luck in business and that if she does not deliver the money, it is because she doesn’t have it. Gil confirmed that her daughter still lives in New York and that the family is deeply pained by the situation.

“Liliana has taken shelter with a good friend of the family. If she doesn’t show her face in public, it’s out of fear that she’ll be harmed.”


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