Miami businessman defrauded millions of Venezuelans, SEC lawsuit claims


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A South Florida businessman is accused of stealing millions from more than 500 investors, many in the region’s Venezuelan-American community, to raise money for payday loans interest rate, according to a complaint filed Monday by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In a civil suit, the SEC says Efrain Betancourt Jr. and his Miami company, Sky Group USA, sold fraudulent promissory notes totaling $66 million to investors – money he spent for a luxurious lifestyle while using part of the Ponzi-style funds to pay support investors to keep them at bay.

“The scheme collapsed in July 2019, when Betancourt told investors Sky Group was suspending investor redemptions on the notes,” according to the SEC complaint filed in federal court in Miami. “Even then, Betancourt and Sky Group continued to lie, falsely blaming the suspension of refunds from a supplier responsible for processing refunds from the company’s investors.”

Betancourt could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. No lawyer was listed for him in the court file.

According to the SEC complaint, Sky Group and Betancourt falsely told investors that the company would use investors’ money only to make payday loans and cover the costs of those loans, promising them annual rates of return of up to $120. % on tickets. In fact, according to the complaint, Betancourt misappropriated at least $2.9 million for personal purposes, including for his extravagant wedding at a French Riviera chateau, his vacations at Disney and Caribbean resorts, and the costs associated with the purchase of a luxury condominium in Miami. He also used some of the money to service his personal Piper plane, SEC officials said.

Betancourt is also accused of transferring at least another $3.6 million to friends and family, including his ex-wife, Angelica Betancourt, and EEB Capital Group LLC. The bank accounts of this company were controlled by Betancourt and his current wife.

Betancourt and Sky Group also used at least $19.2 million of the investors’ money to make Ponzi-like payments to other investors, according to the SEC complaint, filed by lead attorney Robert Levenson.

The complaint further alleges that Betancourt and Sky Group misled investors by promising extraordinary returns on their promissory notes and that the representation of the lending business was profitable, even though Sky Group did not generate sufficient revenue to cover principal and interest payments due to investors.

“As alleged in our complaint, Sky Group and Betancourt lured unsuspecting investors, including many members of the Venezuelan-American community in South Florida, with false claims and promises of high-yield and low-cost investments. low risk,” said Eric I. Bustillo, director. from the Miami Regional Office of the SEC. “We continue to warn investors to be wary of any investment that promises returns that are too good to be true.”

The SEC complaint accuses Sky Group and Betancourt of violations of registration and anti-fraud provisions of federal securities laws in addition to accusing Betancourt of acting as an unregistered broker.

The complaint also names Angelica Betancourt and EEB Capital Group LLC as defendants in their wrongful receipt of funds from investors. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions and financial penalties from each of the defendants.

This story was originally published September 27, 2021 6:03 p.m.

Jay Weaver writes about bad guys who specialize in scams, scams, and squirrel millions. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he’s covered the federal courts non-stop, from Elian’s custody battle to A-Rod’s steroid abuse. He was part of the Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news in 2001. He and three Herald colleagues were Pulitzer Prize finalists for explanatory reporting in 2019 for a series on gold smuggling from South America in Miami.

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