Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging ANDRIS PUKKE with wire fraud and with engaging in unlawful monetary transactions in connection with his embezzlement of more than $13 million from Sanctuary Belize, a real estate development in Belize that he directed and controlled. PUKKE was arrested this morning in Los Angeles and will be presented in the Central District of California later today.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Andris Pukke sold residential lots in Belize with a promise to build out an affordable vacation and retirement community in a tropical paradise. Instead, Pukke’s planned paradise turned out to be just a mirage, as he allegedly stole the very funds the development needed to pay for roads, utilities, and other infrastructure, leaving the lot buyers with nothing but land they cannot access or use. This Office will continue to aggressively pursue consumer fraud to ensure that businesses deliver on their promises to their customers.”
FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said: “The defendant, as alleged, sold his victims dreams of a tropical haven, instead he used their money for his own interests. Investigating and holding financial fraudsters like Mr. Pukke accountable in the criminal justice system remains a top priority for the FBI.”
According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
PUKKE directed and controlled Sanctuary Belize, which was a vacation and retirement community under development in Belize. PUKKE marketed and sold residential lots in the development to U.S. residents with promises that the development, when finished, would be near an international airport and hospital and would include a marina, a wildlife reserve, a beach club, and an equestrian center, among other amenities. Lot buyers could construct homes on their lots once the infrastructure, such as roads and electricity, was built out by Sanctuary Belize.
PUKKE and his salespeople falsely represented to lot buyers that Sanctuary Belize was free of debt and that all income from lot sales would go to the development of Sanctuary Belize’s infrastructure. In fact, Sanctuary Belize had more than $12 million in debt, and PUKKE stole more than $13 million of the $124 million that Sanctuary Belize received from sales of residential lots. PUKKE stole the money by directing Sanctuary Belize employees to transfer the funds to recipients he designated. These transfers of funds were concealed on the books and records of Sanctuary Belize as business expenses, such as professional fees, legal fees, consulting fees, loans receivable, and online advertising expenses.
PUKKE used the embezzled funds for his personal benefit, including the renovation of his home in Newport Beach, California; investments in various entities unrelated to Sanctuary Belize; investments in unrelated real estate developments; repayment of personal debt; and payments to PUKKE’s family members.
PUKKE, 54, of Newport Bach, California, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the FBI. Mr. Williams also thanked the Federal Trade Commission for their assistance with the case.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James McMahon and Jeffrey C. Coffman are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. – Source
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