The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith issued the following statement regarding the memorandum opinion issued late last week by U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte for the District of Maryland, in the matter of In re Sanctuary Belize litigation.
“With this $120 million judgment, the Federal Trade Commission has successfully put an end to the largest land fraud in the agency’s history,” said Smith. “The FTC pursued these fraudsters doggedly and ultimately brought them to justice—despite the use of foreign banks to hide their wrongdoing, the hiring of dozens of well-heeled lawyers, and a sprawling and complex fraudulent scheme spread over multiple states and countries that took a four-week-long trial to resolve.”
In November 2018, the FTC announced that a federal district court in Maryland issued an order temporarily shutting down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted.
According to the FTC, the scam was established by Andris Pukke, a recidivist scammer currently living in California, and he perpetuated it even while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice.
The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million, marketing lots in what supposedly would become a luxury development in Central America known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve. According to the FTC, the defendants duped consumers into buying Sanctuary Belize lots by falsely promising that the development would include luxury amenities and be completed soon, and that the value of the lots would rapidly appreciate.
In filing its complaint against Pukke and a range of other defendants, the FTC sought to permanently stop the scheme and obtain a court order requiring them to turn over hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate deceived U.S. investors.