Feds: More Agape World arrests likely
by David Winzelberg
Published: May 1, 2009
Tags: Agape World, fraud, Nicholas Cosmo, Ponzi schemes
Nick Cosmo, who allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme, may not end up the only Agape World associate behind bars.
After appearing in federal court clean shaven and sporting an orange jumpsuit, accused Ponzi schemer Nicholas Cosmo’s bail was set at $750,000 Wednesday, an amount his attorney said might be attainable.
But while Cosmo tries to get out of jail, some of his Agape World associates are worried about being sent to slammer themselves.
Cosmo, who has spent more than 90 days at the Nassau County jail in East Meadow, in solitary confinement for his protection authorities say, is so far the only person arrested in the alleged scheme which feds say took in more than $410 million from as many as 6,000 investors.
But LIBN has learned that federal investigators are “looking at everyone” who may have worked for Agape World or solicited investors, and they say more arrests are likely.
The feds won’t say which of Cosmo’s cohorts will wind up being charged, but they will likely focus on some of the more prolific Agape representatives and sub-reps, who made more than $55 million in commissions, according to a U.S. Attorney’s complaint.
While at least three Agape representatives had criminal records before they began selling Cosmo’s investment offerings, some were cops. And many were family.
Named in a class-action lawsuit filed against Agape in February were former Nassau policeman Martin Hartmann, 63, of Massapequa, and his son Martin Hartmann, 34. Both were sub-reps of Long Beach resident Jason Keryc, 31, who the feds say made more than $15 million in Agape commissions within two years. Jason’s brother Michael Keryc, 34, of Baldwin, was also an active member of the team.
Others under the feds microscope include Anthony Ciccone, a former clerk at a Manhattan post office, and his brother Sal Ciccone, both from Maspeth. The Ciccones received nearly $17 million in payments from Agape and its subsidiary Agape Merchant Advance, according to the federal complaint.
Two other brothers, Hugo and Bryan Arias, also of Maspeth, worked out of Agape’s office in Jackson Heights and got nearly $10 million from the company, the feds have charged.
Agape reps Mario Restrepo and Juan Carlos Munoz had nearly 200 clients throughout Florida and North Carolina, according to former client Elena Alania, who was one of them. Alaina, a student at the University of North Carolina, lost the $250,000 she invested with Restrepo in Agape World.
Some Agape reps declined to comment and the others didn’t respond.
The class-action suit alleges that “all members of the Agape enterprise had actual knowledge of the illegal activities.”
And it isn’t just Agape reps the feds have looked at.
Cosmo’s accountant Gary Cusenza of Bethpage acknowledged that the FBI had questioned him about his client’s alleged fraud, but he said investigators only showed a “minor” interest.
“I’m not in their sights,” Cusenza said.
One investor said Agape’s loan originator Rich Barry worked closely with Cosmo. Barry has kept a low profile since Cosmo’s arrest and didn’t return calls for comment.
Also under scrutiny are the Agape investors who started their own feeder fund companies, which unwittingly helped to funnel more millions into Cosmo’s coffers.
Owners of one East End feeder fund company actually copied Agape World contracts and used them to sign up about a dozen investors. That company is making arrangements to reimburse its clients by giving them parcels of property that it owns in the Carolinas to make up for their losses, according to one of the firm’s principals.
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