Lawyer says police case against “Ponzi Scheme” operators faulty

Yuri Garcia-Dominguez and his wife Ateeka Ishmael

Cuban national Yuri Garcia-Dominguez and his Guyanese wife, Ateeka Ishmael, have been slapped with a total of 19 charges after appearing in court in relation to an alleged Ponzi Scheme that reportedly swindled millions of dollars from thousands of Guyanese.

The couple ran the company – Accelerated Capital Firm Incorporated (ACFI) – and enrolled thousands of Guyanese citizens in an alleged Ponzi Scheme where the company claimed that it used a foreign exchange platform to trade the investments which amounts to millions of dollars.

Dominguez and Ishmael appeared at the Vigilance Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning where they were arraigned on 13 charges, which alleged that they obtained the sum of $24.7 million from 13 persons by false pretense.

They were granted a total of $3.9 million bail each and will report to court on September 18.

The couple was also slapped with an additional six charges at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court. They appeared via skype for that arraignment and were not required to plead to the allegations that they obtained over $1 million from the six victims under false pretence. The duo was remanded to prison until September 21 for these second set of charges.

Following Thursday morning’s arraignment, one of the couple’s attorneys, Dexter Todd, told reporters that the prospect of success in this matter is very slim.

He contended that the police’s case is faulty since the issue is not a criminal matter, but in fact is a civil matter given that complainants had entered into contracts with the company.

“What the State has done is to impose themselves as a third party to a private contract and they are forcibly allowing the course of a criminal nature to take shape which ought not to be,” Todd posited.

Dexter Todd

A multi-stakeholder group has been established by the Government of Guyana to investigate the allegations of fraud and other criminal activities connected to the alleged illegal and pyramid scheme, operated by Accelerated Capital Firm Inc. The matter came to fore after numerous complaints were made by persons who invested with the company.

Nevertheless, during Thursday morning’s court appearance, dozens of persons showed up outside the Vigilance Magistrate’s Court, protesting for the couple’s release.

According to Attorney Todd, the presence of those persons is testimony that dealing with his client’s company is not a sham.

“It has been a real deal. People have been getting their returns on their investments and they’ve been quite satisfied,” he asserted.