CFTC says L.A. men targeted Latinos in commodity scam

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it charged Ruben Gonzalez of West Covina, Calif., Jose C. Naranjo of La Mirada, Calif., and their company, New Golden Investment Group, LLC (NGI), also of West Covina, with fraud and misappropriation in connection with a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

The CFTC also announced that it obtained an emergency order from Judge Percy Anderson of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on May 20, 2010, the same day the complaint was filed. The order freezes the defendants’ assets and prohibits defendants from destroying documents or denying CFTC access to their books and records.

The CFTC’s complaint alleges that since at least August 2008, Gonzalez, Naranjo and NGI fraudulently solicited and accepted approximately $3.65 million from at least 165 members of the Los Angeles-area Spanish speaking community for various investments, including commodity futures trading. The defendants falsely claimed to customers that they would double their money within a year in oil, gold, silver and other commodities.

Gonzalez and Naranjo also charged with misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of investor funds

According to the complaint, Gonzalez, Naranjo and NGI falsely presented NGI as a successful trading company by displaying trading software on NGI’s office computers to make it appear to customers and prospective customers that NGI was engaged in electronic commodity futures trading. In reality, the complaint alleges, NGI did not trade commodity futures for customers and did not make any of their advertised profits. Instead, Gonzalez and Naranjo allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme using new investor money to pay purported profits to existing investors.

The complaint also charges Gonzalez and Naranjo with misappropriating investor funds by transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars from NGI’s business account to their personal accounts. They then used investor funds to purchase a Mercedes-Benz, airline tickets, various other retail items and to make payments on a home, according to the complaint.

The CFTC’s complaint seeks orders requiring the defendants to provide the CFTC with continuing access to books and records and to make an accounting with information necessary to determine the amounts received from and paid to NGI investors. The CFTC also requests that the court issue orders of preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendants and order a return of alleged ill-gotten gains, repayments to defrauded customers and monetary penalties.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in this action. Gonzalez was previously arrested in California on illegal immigration charges and is currently incarcerated. Gonzalez was indicted on May 20, 2010, for mail and wire fraud.

The following CFTC Division of Enforcement staff are responsible for this case: Susan Gradman, Camille M. Arnold, Brigitte Weyls, Judith McCorkle, Eleanor Oh, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger and Richard Wagner.

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