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Former CEO of Miami Firm Pleads Guilty in $31-Million Pyramid Scheme

September 12, 2003|From Associated Press

MIAMI — A former chief executive has pleaded guilty in a pyramid scheme to fleece $31 million from victims who were told the money they placed in a purported investment house was insured and would produce a guaranteed return.

Anthony Blissett, president and CEO of the defunct A.B. Financing & Investments Inc., entered his plea Wednesday in federal court in Miami.

He faces a maximum of five years in federal prison at his sentencing Nov. 25.

The Securities and Exchange Commission estimates 2,000 people in Florida and the Caribbean invested a minimum of $10,000 each in the Miami-based company. Accounts in the 5-year-old company were frozen in July.

Investors, most of whom were black, were told they could get annual returns as high as 30% in real estate, securities, commodities, discounted bank notes and trade finance instruments that the company said were previously offered only to whites and select blacks, SEC investigators said.

Blissett was accused of paying returns to old investors with money from new investors in a classic Ponzi scheme. The company made some investments, but its securities trading alone lost nearly $2.5 million and the company had only $314,000 in cash by the end of 2001.

ABFI boasted of having $36 million in assets when it had a negative net worth of more than $27 million and had lost $5 million in 2000 and $7 million in 2001, prosecutors said.

Alma Carney, 59, a nurse's aide from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and her aunt were two of the investors.

"We were just suckers," Carney said. "It was all the money I had."

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