Woman charged with targeting South Florida Haitian community in $4.6 million Ponzi scheme
South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL)
A North Miami woman defrauded investors out of $4.6 million over less than two years and spent $1 million of the money on herself, for her wedding, vacations and other entertainment, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Miami.
A separate civil lawsuit filed last week by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accuses the woman, Judith Paris-Pinder of targeting more than 280 investors, primarily from South Florida’s Haitian-American community, in the scheme.
Paris-Pinder, as president of North Miami-based Pinder Associates, offered loan agreements to investors, promising returns of up to 50% within 30 to 90 days, according to complaints filed on Sept. 23 and Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court in Miami.
Paris-Pinder, 48, is accused of committing the fraud between November 2019 and October 2021.
She targeted victims largely through word-of-mouth referrals from prior investors as well as from relationships with local Haitians and Haitian-Americans, the SEC suit states. Investors were instructed to send Paris-Pinder money via cash apps Zelle and CashApp, wire transfer, or through in-person bank tellers, the SEC said.
She told investors that their funds would be used to make advance loans to personal injury clients of a prominent Miami-based attorney who she said were about to receive lawsuit settlements, the complaints state.
In reality, Paris-Pinder “misappropriated investor funds and used investor funds to make Ponzi-like distributions to investors,” the SEC said.
The Paris-Pinder accusations include falsely telling investors:
Instead of using the investors’ money to fund payments or loans to attorney or law firm clients, Paris-Pinder “falsely and fraudulently” paid investor returns by running a Ponzi scheme that paid existing investors using new investor funds, the criminal complaint states.
Prosecutors said Paris-Pinder also diverted more than $1 million of the investors’ money for her own benefit, using it to pay for her wedding. vacations and entertainment without any notice to or authorization from her investors.
Paris-Pinder faces felony criminal charges of fraudulently using interstate wire communications. The federal criminal filing seeks forfeiture of $2.4 million in currency or property. She pleaded not guilty and was released on $300,000 bond.
Her attorney told the Miami Herald late last week that she plans to accept responsibility and “amicably resolve her situation.”
Charged by the SEC with violating federal securities laws, Paris-Pinder last week agreed to a settlement that bars her from serving as officer or director of any SEC-reporting company and from future violations of federal securities laws. A judge will determine whether she will have to pay restitution or civil penalties.
Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at [email protected].