U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
District of New Jersey

APRIL 04, 2011

Former Capitol Investments CFO and Accountant Plead Guilty to Roles in $880 Million Ponzi Scheme in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – The former chief financial officer (CFO) and an accountant with Capitol Investments USA Inc., admitted today to assisting Nevin Shapiro, the former owner and chief executive officer for Capitol, in the operation of an $880 million Ponzi scheme linked to a fictitious wholesale grocery distribution business, announced U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

Roberto Torres, 76, of New York, formerly of Lighthouse Point, Fla., and his son, Alejandro Torres, 39, of Boca Raton, Fla., each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to a count of securities fraud.

According to the informations to which the defendants pleaded guilty and statements made in Newark federal court:

Roberto Torres, the CFO of Capitol, and Alejandro Torres, an accountant at Capitol, used the company to assist Shapiro in fraudulently obtaining approximately $880 million between January 2005 and November 2009.  The Torreses admitted that Capitol had virtually no income-generating business during that time, and that they assisted Shapiro in operating the Ponzi scheme by using new investor funds to make principal and interest payments to existing investors and to fund Shapiro’s lavish lifestyle.

In particular, the defendants admitted to creating, or directing others to create, fraudulent documents which falsely touted the profitability of Capitol’s fictitious grocery diversion business.  The Torreses admitted that those documents included: profit and loss figures fraudulently representing that Capitol’s wholesale grocery business was generating tens of millions of dollars in annual sales; personal and business tax returns for Shapiro and Capitol also fraudulently reflecting those sales; and numerous invoices fraudulently reflecting transactions between Capitol and other companies in the wholesale grocery business. 

The Torreses admitted that more than 50 victim investors lost a total of between $50 and $100 million as a result of the scheme.  Beginning in January 2009, Shapiro and Capitol began failing to make required principal and interest payments to investors.  Shapiro and Capitol were forced into bankruptcy in November 2009.  At that time, they owed more than $100 million to victim investors.

Shapiro pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of money laundering on Sept. 15, 2010.   Shapiro’s sentencing is currently scheduled for May 13, 2011.

The securities fraud charge to which Roberto and Alejandro Torres pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine.  Sentencing for Roberto and Alejandro Torres is scheduled for July 12, 2011.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and special agents of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, for the investigation which led to today’s guilty pleas.  He also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Miami Regional Office, under the direction of Eric Bustillo.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob T. Elberg and Justin W. Arnold of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov.

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