Flashy former bank employee Jose Nino de Guzman Jr., charged with cheating investors who put $30 million into his purported real-estate developments in Peru, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to fraud and money-laundering charges.
Nino de Guzman was 23 in 2006 when he started NDG Investments in South Lake Union. Through 2009 he raised money from more than 200 investors with promises of quick profits through residential and commercial projects in the country of his birth.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, Nino de Guzman pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, with a potential sentence of up to 20 years, and one count of money laundering with a sentence of up to 10 years.
Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of 12 years and seven months in prison, plus three years of supervised release, as well as forfeiture of any assets traceable to the fraud.
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The one-time low-level banker at U.S. Bank portrayed himself as an experienced real-estate developer, and he marketed about 20 projects to be built in various districts of Lima, Peru’s capital.
His plea agreement acknowledges that “only a limited number of properties were ever purchased and no project was ever completed,” but he paid early investors with funds raised from later investors.
He spent at least $3 million of the money on extravagant living, including a $365,000 ring for his wife, a $1.8 million house, a $600,000 yacht and a $201,000 Bentley automobile, according to the indictment. Another $6 million was recycled to pay investors and maintain the facade that the Peru projects were finished and profitable, and another $4 million was spent on the company and investor events.
Nino de Guzman also faces criminal charges in Peru.
Michael Filipovic, one of Nino de Guzman’s attorneys from the federal Public Defender’s office, said that while his client takes responsibility for his crimes, “a significant portion” of the funds he raised were actually spent on the projects.
“There was demolition done, construction begun” on some of them, he said.
Nino de Guzman has been in custody since July 2011, when he was arrested in Los Angeles. That will count as time served for his sentence, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thomas Bates.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 1 before Judge Robert Lasnik.
Rami Grunbaum: 206-464-8541 or firstname.lastname@example.org