Miami-Dade Residents Convicted in $8 Million Investment Fraud Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that Lawrence Foster, 49, of Miami Beach, the President of Paradise is Mine, was found guilty by a federal jury in Miami of conspiring to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud. Johana Leon, 38, of Miami Beach, a corporate officer of Paradise is Mine, meanwhile, was found guilty of three counts of structuring currency transactions by the same jury.
The trial evidence showed that Paradise is Mine received approximately $8 million from approximately 90 investors after the company promised that it owned land in the Bahamas and would use investor funds to develop the island of Rum Cay in the Bahamas. In its promotional materials, Paradise is Mine claimed that it was featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other publications, and that Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana and other celebrities purchased land from Paradise is Mine. Bank records, however, show that no money went to the Bahamas. Instead, Leon withdrew over $1 million as cash below the $10,000 currency transaction reporting level. Foster spent investor money on personal expenses, including gardening and a Bentley GT. Witnesses from the Wall Street Journal and USA Today testified that the Paradise is Mine articles had never appeared in either publication. Finally, the accountant for Joe Montana testified that Mr. Montana never received land from Paradise is Mine.
United States District Judge Donald L. Graham remanded Foster to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and set sentencing for January 5, 2015. Foster faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison for each count. Leon faces a term up to five years in prison for each count of conviction.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys H. Ron Davidson, Robert Watson, and Harold Schimkat.
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 http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.