A Long Beach resident was among 14 sales agents charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly misleding investors and illegally selling securities for a Long Island-based investment firm at the center of a $415 million Ponzi scheme.
According to a release issued by the SEC:
The SEC alleges that the sales agents — which include four sets of siblings — falsely promised investor returns as high as 12 to 14 percent in several weeks when they sold investments offered by Agape World Inc. They also misled investors to believe that only 1 percent of their principal was at risk. The Agape securities they peddled were actually non-existent, and investors were merely lured into a Ponzi scheme where earlier investors were paid with new investor funds. The sales agents turned a blind eye to red flags of fraud and sold the investments without hesitation, receiving more than $52 million in commissions and payments out of investor funds. None of these sales agents were registered with the SEC to sell securities, nor were they associated with a registered broker or dealer. Agape also was not registered with the SEC.
Salvatore Ciccone of Maspeth, who is also listed as a resident of Long Beach on whitepages.com, and his borther Anthony Ciccone of Maspeth, offered and sold Agape securities to at least 535 and 348 investors respectively. They received more than $17 million combined in commissions and payments.
According to the SEC’s complaint, more than 5,000 investors nationwide were impacted by the scheme that lasted from 2005 to January 2009, when Agape’s president and organizer of the scheme Nicholas J. Cosmo was arrested. He was later sentenced to 300 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $179 million in restitution.
Last November, Ciccone was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and refusing to take a breath test in Long Beach, according to the Long Beach Police Department.