Friday, May 21, 2010

Trial date for Cosmo

A federal judge set a tentative trial date Thursday for Nicholas Cosmo, who is accused of operating a $413-million Ponzi scheme through his former Hauppauge-based Agape World and Agape Merchant Advance businesses.

U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley issued a trial date of Jan. 10, 2011. Cosmo, of Lake Grove, faces 10 counts of mail fraud and 22 counts of wire fraud in the scheme, which prosecutors said duped 1,500 investors. He has pleaded not guilty.

In a related development, federal prosecutors filed an arrest warrant Thursday for one of Cosmo's closest associates, Richard Barry, charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Barry, of Seaford, held various titles at the Agape companies when the alleged Ponzi scheme occurred, including vice president and office manager, according to the arrest warrant filed by federal prosecutor Demetri Jones.

In Cosmo's case, Jones told Hurley at U.S. federal court in Central Islip that the government and Cosmo's attorneys were attempting to negotiate a plea deal.

If Cosmo goes to trial and is convicted, he theoretically would face life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines because of the sum involved in the alleged scheme.

Cosmo's attorney, Richard Levitt, declined to comment Thursday, as did Jones.

The arrest warrant for Barry accuses him of knowingly participating in several frauds which formed the central part of the alleged Ponzi scheme, Jones said, including falsely promising investors high rates of returns for funding short-term bridge loans to real estate developers.

According to the warrant, Barry knew that many of the loans would not be issued and that it was mathematically impossible to pay the rates of returns, up to 60 percent to 72 percent, that investors were promised.

Barry's attorneys have agreed to have him surrender Friday on the mail-fraud conspiracy charge in court in Central Islip, according to officials.

No time has been set yet for a hearing in the case.

Attorneys for Barry could not be reached for comment.

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