Authorities still unable to locate millions in Ponzi scheme funds

Yuri Garcia-Dominguez and his wife Ateeka Ishmael
Yuri Garcia-Dominguez and his wife Ateeka Ishmael

Local authorities have so far been unable to track down the millions of dollars hidden by the principals of Accelerated Capital Firm Incorporated (ACFI) – a suspected Ponzi scheme which swindled millions of dollars from Guyanese.

Yuri Garcia-Dominguez, the naturalised Cuban national who runs the organisation, was arrested last week after the government was informed of the illegal operation. The Cuban had told investigators that the money was abroad in accounts in the United States, Switzerland, Belize, Germany and Greece.

But the Bank of Guyana, the Guyana Securities Council and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – three of Guyana’s major financial regulators and investigative agencies – say they are unable to locate the money.

“We will continue to collaborate with our international partners in several regional and international jurisdictions in a concerted effort to recover funds that the scammers claimed to have remitted to those jurisdictions, including the USA, Belize, Germany, Greece and Switzerland.”

“Unfortunately, our efforts thus far have not unearthed any monies in any of these jurisdictions, as is alleged. It has also been established that no substantial monies were deposited in or transmitted from any commercial bank in Guyana by Accelerated Capital Firm Inc (ACFI) or its principals to any of the jurisdictions mentioned above or any other jurisdiction,” the agencies explained.

While they continue to work in tracking the funds, however, the entities issued a stern warning to Guyanese not to be drawn into these scams.

According to them, these schemes can be identified by the unrealistic rates of returns they offer and the fact that they use social media to recruit more clients.

“It is our understanding that these schemes are being offered to the public via direct solicitation and by various social media platforms, including but not limited to WhatsApp and Facebook. Potential investors are lured to these schemes by offers of returns or interest rates as high as fifty per cent (50%) per month. All fiscal empirical data will establish that this is a prudent commercial impossibility.”

“A key element of the scheme is also that persons are encouraged to refer new persons and an additional incentive of ten per cent (10%) is paid for referred investors. It is our information that several of these schemes are being operated simultaneously. We advise that these operations are all fraudulent, illegal, unlawful and unregulated, and will eventually result in significant financial losses to investors,” the joint statement further advised.

According to the three agencies, Guyanese are advised to only use formal financial institutions, registered with the GSC, to deposit and invest their savings. They also encouraged Guyanese to report all suspected activities from fraudulent investment schemes to the Guyana Police Force on telephone number 619-4418 or the FIU on telephone number 231-6781.

Dominguez and his wife Ateeka Ishmael ran the company Accelerated Capital Firm Incorporated (ACFI), where they enrolled some 17,000 Guyanese citizens in an alleged Ponzi scheme where ACFI claims that it uses a foreign exchange platform to trade. Reports indicate that all aspects of the scheme operate online via training webinars, WhatsApp and emails.

The pair was arrested on Thursday last by Police, who are currently investigating his company. Social media has been flooded by complaints from persons who invested money with the couple and never got back their capital, much less the profits.

Persons have complained on social media that they invested varying sums ranging from $100,000 to over $1 million, but now they do not know if they will ever recover their hard-earned money.