It seemed like a good deal at the time, but consumers who lost more than $6.4 million in a Costa Rica business opportunity scam probably wish they'd taken a second look before signing up.
In one of the final chapters of the elaborate hoax, John White was sentenced to nearly six years in prison earlier this week and ordered to pay $6.4 million in restitution.
White is one of 12 defendants charged in connection with a series of business opportunity fraud ventures that operated in Costa Rica. Nine of those other defendants have been convicted in the United States with sentences ranging from three to 16 years in prison and the two remaining defendants are not yet in the custody of the United States.
“The defendants in this scheme promised victims the American dream while knowing they in fact were being ripped off,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to prosecute those who would deprive Americans of their savings just so they can make a quick buck.”
White was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on Nov. 29, 2011, arrested in Costa Rica in 2012, extradited to the United States in 2015 and pleaded guilty on April 29, 2015, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with the business opportunity scheme.
As part of his guilty plea, White admitted that from 2005 to 2008, he and his co-conspirators fraudulently induced individuals in the United States to buy business opportunities in USA Beverages Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc., Cards-R-Us Inc., Premier Cards Inc. and The Coffee Man Inc.
White and his co-conspirators claimed that these opportunities would allow purchasers to sell coffee or greeting cards from display racks located at other retail establishments. The business opportunities cost thousands of dollars each, with most purchasers paying at least $10,000. Each company operated for several months and after one company closed, the next opened.
The companies used bank accounts, office space and other services in Florida and elsewhere to make it look like the businesses were in the United States, when in fact they were in Costa Rica.