“Ponzi Scheme” couple supplied empty, fake accounts to State

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Attorney General Anil Nandlall says the government’s best efforts to facilitate the return of millions of dollars to Guyanese who were victims of an alleged Ponzi Scheme have been met with  continuous lack of cooperation.

Yuri Garcia-Dominguez and his wife Ateeka Ishmael, who are facing more than 70 charges relating to defrauding 17,000 people, were given several opportunities to return the money but the accounts he has provided are either empty or non-existent.

“The accounts were either empty, non-existent. I (recently) met with two of his attorneys upon request. They claimed they want assistance from the Government, so that the people can be paid. The Government has always said we would like the people to be paid. That has always been a main concern,” the AG said.

“I met with them. I told them to put into writing whatever it is that they wish the Government to do, that they must ensure they discuss it thoroughly with this gentleman, because whatever he has asked us for, we have given to him. But no money has been forthcoming. I never heard back from them,” Nandlall said.

He had noted that assurances were given to the lawyers that whatever the Government could do, once it wasn’t illegal or liable to put the Government in a disadvantaged position, would be done to ensure that the victims of the scheme got back their money.

Together, Garcia-Dominguez and his wife are facing 70-plus charges for obtaining monies by false pretence from some 17,000 people. They are said to have obtained over $200 million. On October 12, 2020, the couple began reimbursing persons who had invested in their company, Accelerated Capital Firm Incorporated (ACFI).

However, the refunds came to an unexpected halt a few days later after ranks from the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) raided their home at Coldingen, East Coast Demerara and seized several pieces of equipment they claimed were vital in processing the refund transactions. Only 27 persons had been refunded at the time.

The ranks had a warrant to search and seize monies, devices, and financial documents that would assist in their money-laundering investigations. But no monies were found at the couple’s home. Instead, Police ranks seized several borrowed computers, cellphones and personal documents, including birth, marriage and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) certificates.

Attorney-at-Law Dexter Todd, who represents them, has since filed judicial review proceedings in the High Court, asking that all charges and investigations against them be discontinued immediately. The couple has also asked the High Court to order the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to discontinue all charges against them.

They are also asking the court to order the police to cease all investigations against them.
In the meantime, the couple is out on over $30 million bail with instructions to lodge their passports and report to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters.