The Wall Street Journal has just published a new article on the mess that is known as Sanctuary Belize.
The article appears to stem from the FTC massive complaint filed against the foreign development which has roots in the debt relief industry and allegedly targetted retiring Americans.
The situation reads like a bad movie script. It involves an international bank, known scammers and felons, and the law firm of the Prime Minister of Belize. It also has a supporting cast of staunch defenders and angry consumers.
Let’s get the Prime Minister and Bank out of the way first. According to the WSJ, “The law firm Barrow & Williams, which for years has represented the developers, is owned in part by the prime minister of Belize, Dean Barrow.
Mr. Barrow said he was never informed of any complaints about the real-estate development. The firm’s work for the developers “had nothing to do with being complicit in any other things that are being alleged to constitute a scam,” he said.
AIB Chief Executive Ricardo Pelayo said in a statement: “The bank did not play any part in any alleged fraud involving Sanctuary Belize.”
Where this story takes a dark turn for investors who sunk massive retirement dollars into it is where the hype ran into a wall.
I’ve covered the allegations raised many times, click here.
Some investors in the Belize development think it is awesome, but other investors raised a number of concerns that have been dealt with in the court in Belize and “were resolved under questionable circumstances.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, “In 2016, a group of investors sued the developers in Belize. Their Belizean attorney, Michael Young, was “fatally shot in his home during the pretrial proceedings, although local authorities claimed it was a suicide,” the filings say. The developers then sued some of the investors for defamation and prevailed before the investors’ lawsuit went to trial. Both the defamation case and the lawsuit were settled by one of the investors, who received payments from the developers, the FTC filings said.” See, more of a bad movie script. This mess is ripe for at least a cable movie.
The Federal Trade Commission has been developing this case for some time. In 2017, “two FTC agents posing as potential buyers recorded conversations with Sanctuary Belize Enterprises salespeople and received marketing material about the project. The FTC’s complaint said that potential investors were told that lots were a “low risk investment” and that the project would be finished quickly. In fact, the FTC’s filing alleges, “the development is nowhere close to finished and is unlikely to ever be finished.”
And now it’s time for a felon. “The complaint alleges that the project was directed by Andris Pukke, a two-time felon from the U.S. well known to the FTC. Mr. Pukke pleaded guilty in 1996 to a felony charge of mail fraud; he was sentenced to probation. The FTC sued him for deceptive practices in 2003, when he ran debt-counseling firms AmeriDebt and DebtWorks. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the FTC case and in a personal bankruptcy proceeding. Mr. Pukke served 15 months of an 18-month sentence in federal prison in 2011 and 2012.”
You’ve got to wonder if this is the end of the unfortunate alleged misrepresentation. Sadly though I would not take that bet.
You can read the full WSJ article here.