LAWFUEL – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Don Saxon, Commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, announced today that defendants Lazaro J. Rodriguez and Frederick Ira Wolfe entered guilty pleas this morning before U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke in connection with a fraudulent internet-based investment scheme. When sentenced on May 23, 2007, and May 30, 2007, respectively, they face up to 20 years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines.
Rodriguez was the president and Wolfe the chief executive officer of The Firm “Financial,” also known as THE F-I-R-M, The Firm Investments (collectively referred to as “TFF”), a business located in Miami-Dade County, which engaged in an Internet investment fraud scheme. Until January 13, 2006, TFF operated a website at www.thefirminvestments.com and was headquartered at 5201 Blue Lagoon Drive, Suite 872, Miami, Florida.
The defendants were indicted on conspiracy and mail fraud charges for defrauding more than 700 victims of more than $2 million. Using Spanish language newspaper advertisements and Creole language radio ads to lure investors, the website and the materials offered a number of investment options. An “Intermediate Level of Investment,” for example, guaranteed someone investing $500 a return of $1,500 (300%) in 90 days, while a $1,000 investment guaranteed a return of $3,000. An “Executive Level of Investment,” which required an investment of $10,000, promised a return of $20,000 in nine (9) months. Similarly, an investment of $50,000 promised a return of $100,000. A “Liquid Level of Investment,” required a minimum investment of $100,000, and promised a return of $300,000 in seventeen (17) months; a $900,000 investment promised a return of $1.2 million. TFF claimed that it specialized in commercial and residential real estate, commodities and Initial Public Offering, and boasted that these rates of return were “completely guaranteed.”
In reality, however, neither Rodriguez nor Wolfe ever invested the money they received and neither had the requisite license to trade in securities or commodities. Instead, Rodriguez placed investor money in a savings account at a Miami bank and used the funds to purchase a Mercedes-Benz, a 2005 Hummer, two 2006 Corvettes, a Mazda RX-8 and a water craft vessel (jet ski). Much of the remaining money was withdrawn through ATMs. Wolfe hired and trained account executives to lure additional investors and received a 20% commission on each new account.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their work on this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Wilfredo Fernandez. The U.S. Attorney asks that anyone who has invested in TFF contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (305) 944-9101 if they have not already.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .