ORLANDO (Florida Record) — An Ocala resident, four other men and the Bank of America were complicit in a $102 million Ponzi scheme over the past seven years, according to a putative class action lawsuit filed in federal court.
Siblings Mary Beth Heinert and Richard H. Schultz, both Marion County residents, accused the bank and five men of using more than 100 accounts to carry out the scheme, according to the lawsuit. The 35-page class action complaint and demand for jury trial filed June 25 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The putative class in the case would be the 643 investors alleged to have been defrauded.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court judge Paul G. Byron.
The lawsuit's filing followed a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announcement week of charges filed and an asset freeze obtained against five men and three companies alleged to be behind a $102 million Ponzi scheme that bilked investors throughout the country.
The men charged in the SEC's complaint in federal court in Manhattan were Paul Anthony LaRocco of Ocala, Florida, and New York, John Piccarreto of San Antonio, Thomas Brenner of Orville, Ohio, and Perry Santillo and Christopher Parris, both of Rochester, New York.
Although Bank of America was not mentioned in the SEC's announcement, the five men who were charged by the SEC are all named defendants in the Heinert's class action that alleged more than 600 investors had been defrauded in the scheme since 2011. Referring to the five men as "orchestrators of the scheme," the class action alleged that they "duped their victims into investing in one or more of the individual defendants' companies using uniform fraudulent offering materials under the pretense that the companies would invest in financial services, insurance, real estate development or medical laboratories.
"These investments were a sham. In classic Ponzi scheme fashion, the individual defendants used newly acquired investor funds to pay off previous investors, and then stole what was left to fund a jet-setting lifestyle, including paying for homes across the country, cars, expenses as a country club and Las Vegas resort and casino, credit card payments, and other personal expenses," the suit alleges
LaRocco, founder and CEO of United RL Capital Services, one of the companies charged in the SEC complaint, was alleged to have misappropriated at least $1.1 million via Bank of America accounts as part of the scheme.
"He offered investment opportunities in First Nationle, Percipience and United RL," the lawsuit said. "He provided investment advice to investors and potential investors."
Bank of America was complicit in the scheme, according to the lawsuit.
"The Individual defendants could not have perpetuated their scheme without the knowing assistance of their primary banking institution, Bank of America, which lent the scheme an air of legitimacy and provided critical support, including at times when the scheme would have otherwise collapsed," the lawsuit said.
The case was filed on behalf of Heinert and Schultz by attorneys from Gilligan, Gooding, Franjola & Batsel in Ocala and from Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Coral Gables under case No. 5:18-cv-00324-PGB-PRL.