BY ROBERT E. KESSLER
March 7, 2009
Federal prosecutors moved Friday to seize two homes from one of the chief lieutenants of imprisoned Agape World Inc. company chief Nicholas Cosmo - opening a new front in the case of an alleged $370-million Ponzi scheme centered on Cosmo's Hauppauge investment advisory business.
Previously, federal officials had identified only Cosmo in the alleged scam. He has been held since his arrest in January.In civil court papers filed in Central Islip, federal prosecutors said the two homes owned by Jason Keryc should be forfeited to the government because "virtually all of the ... monies received by Keryc [from Agape] consisted of investor funds and are thus proceeds of the Ponzi scheme." "In furtherance of such scheme, Cosmo, Keryc and other individuals associated with Agape ... solicited thousands of individuals for investments with false representations and promises of annualized rates of return of approximately forty-eight to eighty percent," the papers said.
The two properties are at 1 Wills Point Rd. in Montauk, and at 369 W. Broadway in Long Beach. Property records list the Montauk home as valued at $2.5 million and the Long Beach home at $698,000.Keryc, who was not charged with any crime in the civil papers, could not be reached to comment. His attorney, Frank Murray of Rockville Centre, said, "I can't comment because of the pending investigation.
"Federal prosecutors Grace Cucchissi and Vincent Lipari declined to comment.
Keryc has been identified in the past by prosecutors only as R-1, a Cosmo associate who made $15,225,000 working for Agape World between March 2005 and November 2008; $14,600,000 alone between January of 2007 and October of 2008.
In Friday's filing, he was named and described with the same earnings and dates.In past government papers, R-1 also was identified as "one of the top earning representatives in the company and he has several sub-representatives who work on his team." The sub-representatives have not been identified.
In a related development Friday, federal Magistrate Arlene Lindsay granted a month's delay in the requirement under the speedy-trial act, which mandates a person arrested to be indicted within a short time.Lindsay acted on the request of both Cucchissi and Cosmo's attorney, Stacey Richman. Richman said she had not been able to go through all of Cosmo's records seized by the government to get the full extent of the case.
Cucchissi said she was also continuing to work on how many victims were involved. So far Cucchissi said the government believes that 6,000 people had invested in Agape, but only 2,000 have been identified by the government.Not all of the 6,000 might be victims, she said, because typically in a Ponzi scheme some people get high returns to lure others in.
Richman also said she was still working to come up with a bail package that would satisfy the court so that Cosmo can be released.
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