PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Nearly $500,000 was stolen from several senior citizen investors who thought they were buying into a fish farm company that turned out to be fake.
“What she was basically doing is taking the older people’s life savings," said a victim, a former law enforcement officer who asked not to be identified.
Rebeca Gonzalez, 43, of Boca Raton, was a woman whose victims say they trusted with their money because she advised them on investments.
“I dealt with her two, three years prior to this," that victim said. "I trusted her."
Gonzalez was employed at Cardinal Capital Management from 2001 to 2003, David Lerner Associates from 2008 to 2010, National Securities Corporation in 2011, Southeast Investments from 2011 to 2012. She was terminated from Southeast Investments in December 2012. In January 2014, Gonzalez lost her license to trade securities.
Gonzalez is now facing charges of organizing a scheme to defraud over $50,000, selling unregistered securities, registration of dealers and selling unregistered investment securities along with Matthew Braun, 36, of Boca Raton, and Michael Creamer, 48, of St. Petersburg, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says they were all involved in defrauding investors for their money to fund a fake fish farm from 2013 to 2014.
“Rebeca said that she knows this gentleman and he wanted to start a fish farm," the victim said.
A 36-page affidavit from FDLE details how the three managed to con six senior citizens living from Tamarac to Port St. Lucie into investing a total of $410,010 in Blue Ocean Farm, a company that was supposed to farm fish in the ocean.
“I got suspicious because I didn’t hear anything from them," the victim said. "All along I was suspicious.”
The trio scored $110,000 from an 84-year-old man in Tamarac, $15,000 from the 70-year-old former law enforcement officer in Lake Worth, $50,000 from an 84-year-old woman in Boynton Beach, $20,000 from an 86-year-old woman in Boca Raton, $100,000 from an elderly woman in Sunrise and a total of $37,000 from a woman and her mother in Port St. Lucie.
"The elderly age group targeted by the defendants represented some of the more vulnerable members of our community because of the perceived reluctance by senior citizens to report themselves as victims of fraud scams to law enforcement and their family members," the arrest affadavit says. "The defendants utilized high-pressure sales tactics, bait and switch tactics and the unlicensed sale of unregistered securities to induce victims into investing in Blue Ocean Inc., a Florida corporation that this investigation revealed existed for the sole purpose of perpetuating this fraud."
The Lake Worth victim said he was supposed to be paid back $15,000 with interest by 2015, but he has not received any money back. He is thankful he didn't invest more in the scam.
“I was in law enforcement for almost 30 years and I should know better, but we all make mistakes so it can happen to anybody," a victim said.