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When Immigrants Cheat Immigrants

September 3, 2012
Plain English Version

About 400 Immigrant families invested in a fruit and vegetable importing business in New York City. They invested at least $10 million altogether. The business was a fraud and they lost their money.

The name of the company is Inversionistas Unidos. The owners of the company used their roots in the Latino community to attract investors. They showed impressive documents to people. They gave to charities and talked about their backgrounds in business. People trusted them. “They were from the same community; they spoke the language,” said one person.

Last year the company stopped sending checks and closed its offices. The owners are nowhere to be found.

Before they disappeared, the owners told investors they were doing God’s work and not to call the police. They reminded them that many were undocumented immigrants.

They operated what is called a Ponzi scheme. In the beginning people received a big return on their investment. This encouraged them and others to invest more.

Investors are outraged and many now cannot pay their mortgages and other bills. Most are from the Queens, NY.

This kind of fraud is not new. Investigators say it is based on relationships and trust that new immigrants have. “They prey on immigrants, on the fact that they do not really know the system,” an attorney said.

An attorney said that New York City has a rule that protects the undocumented. He said there is, “No need to worry about their immigration status, but they have to talk and cooperate.”

The two people who ran the company are Oswaldo Patiño from Ecuador and Liliana Henao from Colombia. They are wanted by the police for questioning.

The New York Times

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