The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has filed civil charges against two Southern California men, alleging that they ran a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that targeted Latinos, the commission announced Monday.
Acting at the request of the commodities agency, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson last week froze the assets of Ruben Gonzalez of West Covina and Jose C. Naranjo of La Mirada and their company, New Golden Investment Group. The defendants and the company could not be reached for comment.
In its lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles, the commission accused Gonzalez and Naranjo of defrauding 165 investors of about $3.65 million since August 2008 by falsely claiming they would invest in oil, gold, silver and other commodities — potentially doubling investors' money.
Instead of making investments as promised, Gonzalez and Naranjo used new investor money to pay purported profits to earlier investors, the complaint said. The complaint also accused the defendants of spending investor money on travel, a Mercedes-Benz and payments on a house.
Potential clients were solicited through advertisements in Spanish-language newspapers, radio stations and websites, according to the lawsuit. Those who responded to the advertisements were told they could make 100% to 120% profit in a single year, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit seeks restitution for victims, plus financial penalties.
In addition to the civil lawsuit, Gonzalez was indicted criminally on mail fraud and wire fraud charges, the commission said.