SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Three California men were charged with running a phony securities scheme that defrauded investors around the world out of more than $10 million, authorities said Thursday.
Christopher Mancuso, John Black, and Joseph Tufo allegedly lured victims by promising to triple or quadruple their investments in a matter of months, but they instead kept the money for themselves, according to a statement from the state attorney general’s office.
When the investments came due, “the defendants would allegedly ignore calls and emails or tell various lies, including that there were delays being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
Prosecutors said more than 70 people lost tens of thousands of dollars each. The victims came from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Germany, England and Italy.
The three men were charged Wednesday with 32 felonies, including operating a fraudulent securities scheme, grand theft and investment fraud.
Mancuso and Tufo were arrested Thursday in Orange County and Contra Costa County while Black is a fugitive whose last known whereabouts were in and around Sacramento County, authorities said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether they had obtained attorneys.
“It takes a particular kind of callousness to rob people of their life’s savings by selling them on false hope,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in the statement. “That’s the kind of fraud the defendants in this case have allegedly committed. We’re talking about as much money as some families earn in an entire year gone in just an instant.”
“Unfortunately, these kinds of scams aren’t new. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is,” he said.