Florida Has Lost $5 Billion in Ponzi Schemes Since 2008

Categories: Recessionomics

Florida Ponzi schemers Allen Stanford and Scott Rothstein.
The Ponzi scheme epidemic of 2008 kicked off with part-time Palm Beach resident Bernie Madoff, and then hit Florida much harder than most states. That's the consensus of a new Forbes analysis, which found that Florida was second in total number of dollars lost to Ponzis, trailing only New York, and came in second behind California in total number of Ponzi schemes uncovered between 2008 and 2013.

Floridians lost about $5 billion to Ponzi schemes during the so-called "Madoff Era," about 10 percent of the $50 billion plus lost in the United States. All-in-all, 54 schemes were uncovered in Florida during that time.

So what makes Florida such a hotspot for Ponzi schemers?

"Florida has a large elderly population," Alison Jimenez, president of Dynamic Securities Analytics Inc., told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "A lot of Ponzi schemes are affinity based. Many people are new to Florida, so they might tend to trust someone of the same religious beliefs or same nationality."

Indeed, one need only look at a sample of Miami-based Ponzis.

Gaston E. Cantens, a former board member for Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, was sentenced to five years in prison back in 2012 for running a $135 million scheme along with his wife that targeted elderly Cuban-Americans.

"The Cantens used their prominent standing in a close-knit Cuban-American community to ruthlessly exploit vulnerable elderly investors who trusted them with their life savings," Eric I. Bustillo, director of the SEC's Miami regional office, said in a release at the time. "They portrayed themselves as a pious couple closely involved with educational and religious organizations, while in reality they were living lavishly off money from defrauded investors."

See also: Belén Jesuit Ponzi Schemer Gaston E. Cantens Sentenced to Five Years Behind Bars

Marguerite Martial Jean was popped for running a $3.4 million Ponzi back in 2011 that targeted the Haitian-American community and member of her own church, including her own pastor.

"She was a church officer!" minister Michel Lamartine Porcena told New Times at the time. "As her pastor, I never thought that this person, a church member, wasn't telling the truth."

See also: Marguerite Jean, Alleged Ponzi Schemer, Fleeced Her Own Pastor Out of $70,000

South Florida was also home to the two biggest Ponzi schemes in the state. Fort Lauderdale brothers Joel and Steven Steiner's Mutual Benefits Corp. ripped investors off of a total of $1.25 billion, while another Fort Lauderdale resident Scott Rothstein made $1.2 billion disappear through his scheme.

See also: Ponzi Clown Scott Rothstein Spent $60,000 a Month on Prostitutes

Miami Beach's Nevin Shapiro has since become more infamous for his charges against the University of Miami football program, but his $880 million Ponzi scheme uncovered in 2010 was the third biggest in Florida.

Though Florida has had a large number of Ponzi schemes, the total amount of time they'll spend behind bars is not.

The Herald-Tribune notes that Florida ranks 26th on "the number of months in a sentence per the millions of dollars stolen."

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omg.  Ed Berkhof.  I was just searching for him.  He has stolen my identity and he and my ex-wife are going around smearing Linda Kennedy who exposed their Ponzi-identity theft ring.  A mayor from Lake Worth was involved too.  They promised they would ruin her and then they steal my identity and credit card to do it.  Criminal activity is really rampant these days and because Joyce Riley and Ed Berkhof were government snitches for different cases to save their skins, they get to harass and steal whatever they want.  Everyone, that is not me smearing Linda Kennedy.  She was the one who protected the city and veterans.  It is Joyce Riley and Ed Berkhof who are using my name and likeness.  AND CREDIT CARD.  See ripped off where I have written Hanoi Joyce Riley, Ed Berkhof, and Mayor Triolo steal Dave vonKleist's name to defame Linda Kennedy who was exposing them.  And Joyce Riley is worse than the others if you can believe it.


This is getting crazy. As an investor we are targeted for scam artist and very rarely get pennies on the dollar back. I had a ponzi schemer named Edward G. Berkhof in Florida along with his new partner in crime identity thief and Veteran scam artist Joyce Riley out of Missouri and the Power Hour radio show trying to set up fake shell corporations and appointing themselves all kinds of executive titles to look important and bolstering themselves with stories of importance to gain fake credibility. I finally looked them up and saw what schemers they are. Ed Berkhof also spells his name Berkhof, Berkhoff, Berkhofe, Perkhofe and was in with Sir Allen Stanford's schemes that landed him in jail for stealing 8 billion dollars from investors. Joyce Riley calls herself Timmerman, Bates, Barfield, Barefield, vonBarefield and many other names. She has two birthdays making her 58 and 65 at the same time, but looks no less than 75. This Berkhof and Riley association talk a big game fellow investors and even got Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo involved although to what extent I am not sure. She is being investigated I think. Florida mayors are taking a big hit in the fraud department these days and I hope the SEC and state agencies are finally going to take care of these fraudsters.  


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frankd4 topcommenter

.................actually the FIRST investors in these schemes who got out in time may have done very well indeed - it's the LAST group that gets stuck holding the (empty) bag

for example there were many many MADOFF investors thirty years or so ago that did quite well in total returns and if they got out in time preserved their principal plus cashed in on the false returns

frankd4 topcommenter

..................sunny skies and shady people

Austin Hill
Austin Hill

ponzi schemes, like all confidence art, rely on greed

Danny Cespedes
Danny Cespedes

We have Mr. Ponzi Scheme as governor. Are you surprised?

Lon Allen
Lon Allen

This doesn't even include social security.

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