The recent economic downturn has made investment fraud a hot topic these days in New York. It seems that every couple of weeks someone in the city is being charged with a high-profile white collar crime, and now four former employees of an investment firm based in Long Island are facing criminal charges of operating a Ponzi scheme. The criminal complaint alleges that over 4,000 investors lost $179 million as a result of what federal prosecutors say were misleading business practices.

Agape World Inc. is the business currently under investigation, and the founder of the company was already sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to taking part in fraud. Now four former employees are also being scrutinized by federal prosecutors who claim that illegal activities over a four-year period brought in $400 million for the company.

The former employees are accused of using investors’ money to pay other investors, as well as make unauthorized trades in commodities and high-risk futures. The defendants worked for Agape as either brokers or account representatives, and they face charges of knowingly misleading investors as to the risks associated with particular investments.

It was indicated that two of the defendants had already fully cooperated with the government during the investigation of their employer, and it reportedly came as a shock that prosecutors filed the recent charges.

Despite some of the information that has come to light as a result of the nation’s economic downturn, not everyone who is accused of a white collar crime is guilty. Business and investment matters are often extremely complex, and sometimes an honest misunderstanding of the products being sold results in a loss for investors. Moreover, anyone accused of a crime deserves his or her day in court. The circumstances of a criminal charge are usually not as cut and dry as prosecutors would like us to believe.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Four charged in $400 million Ponzi fraud,” Jessica Dye, April 25, 2012