November 8, 2018 / 6:43 PM / 8 days ago

U.S. court shuts down 'Sanctuary Belize' investment scam, FTC says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal court has ordered the temporary shutdown of a real estate operation called “Sanctuary Belize,” among other names, the Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday, saying it was a scam that has cost investors more than $100 million over more than 10 years.

The FTC has asked the U.S. District Court in Maryland to permanently close the companies. The agency said in its complaint that Andris Pukke, who it called a “serial scammer,” had joined with others to sell lots in a luxury development in the Central American nation of Belize, promising it would soon have amenities like a golf course and casino that have not been completed.

Efforts to reach Pukke, Sanctuary Belize and related companies for comment were not immediately successful.

Pukke began selling the lots in about 2005, advertising on cable news channels, the FTC said.

There are more than 1,000 victims who may have paid as much as $500,000 outright or made down payments, the FTC said in its complaint.

Part of the time Pukke headed the scam, he was in prison, the FTC said. He was sentenced to 18 months in 2010 following clashes with the government over another company, this one called AmeriDebt, which the FTC said had cheated debtors. Pukke was found to have concealed assets that he had agreed to turn over.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio

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