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First came Bernie. Now there’s Barry.
A home-grown Bay Ridge resident has joined an ever-expanding list of accused Ponzi schemers, officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office announced Tuesday.
Philip Barry, 52, was arrested on September 7 for allegedly operating a “longstanding and large scale Ponzi scheme” from his Bay Ridge office on 82nd Street.
Many of his victimized clients were local residents and business people living near his apartment on 78th Street and 4th Avenue -- the same home he grew up in, according to published reports.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Barry used word of mouth to advertise his many investment companies, which became collectively known as the “Leverage Group,” in which he promised clients anywhere from 12.5 percent to 21 percent on their investments.
But, as far back as 1979, Barry didn’t pay Leverage Group investors from any profits earned on investments, officials alleged -- rather, he paid them off from funds collected by new investors.
Officials alleged that Barry never produced or earned the rates of return that he advertised and cited in clients’ account statements. The positive rates of return were simply pre-determined interest rates made up by Barry, they alleged.
While he claimed to be investing the money in stock options, Barry abandoned the practice several years into the scam and instead purchased land in Sullivan County, prosecutors alleged, adding that this property is on the brink of foreclosure.
Things spiraled out of control in 2007 when the market began to dip and Barry’s investors wanted to cash in on his investments.
With no money to give them, he filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
All told, approximately 800 individuals invested a total of more than $40 million in the Leverage Group, officials said. Although many investors succeeded over the years in making full or partial withdrawals, numerous other investors sustained substantial losses.
“This defendant allegedly convinced hundreds of individuals to hand over their savings for what was supposed to be a safe investment that could be easily liquidated,” stated United States Attorney Benton Campbell in a statement. “In reality, the defendant’s investment fund was nothing more than a classic Ponzi scheme.”
“This case is fundamentally about deceit,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Joseph M. Demarest, Jr. “Over a period of three decades, the defendant allegedly misrepresented to investors their guaranteed rate of return, the safety of their investments, and even what it was they were investing in. As a consequence, hundreds of investors stand to lose many millions of dollars in the aggregate, in some instances representing their life savings.”
Neighbors said that FBI agents showed up at Barry’s home on Labor Day with an arrest warrant. They reportedly pounded on his door for up to an hour before he allowed them into his home and was taken into custody.
After his arraignment on Tuesday afternoon, Barry was facing multiple counts of securities fraud. If convicted of the charges, he could face the next 20 years in prison, officials said.
Federal officials told reporters that they planned to auction off the land Barry had purchased, but they did not think that all of the investors will be able to recoup their money.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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