Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Investment Investigation
When it comes to saving for retirement, we all try to make good investments, but one former New York firefighter found out investment deals can go very, very bad, and, tonight, police are investigating. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- In those terrible days after 9/11, the men and women who were the first responders became American heroes as they struggled to save colleagues and strangers alike. Among them, Dennis Reily, who retired to Florida from the New York Fire Department, and now faces serious lung issues.
Dennis Reilly: "It gets 10 percent worse a year."
Reily, along with Gio Diaz and another woman who doesn't want her family to know what happened, all invested money with a man they thought could make them money.
Carmel Cafiero: "How much money did you lose?"
Gio Diaz: "Ah, $50,000."
Carmel Cafiero: "Dennis, how much did you lose?"
Dennis Reily: "$70,000."
They say Carlos Casa Valencia convinced them to invest $276,000 based on promises of big returns.
Gio Diaz: "This is a family business, that 'We make a lot of money every month.'"
Dennis Reilly: "Millions."
Gio Diaz: "And he kept telling me that."
Dennis Reily: "Millions, that's how he put it, millions, that he was buying properties from foreclosures and banks, and from the FBI, and fixing it up and flipping it, and 'That's where we are getting our money from.'"
They met Casa Valencia at a gym where Dennis taught a boxing class before his health deteriorated.
In fact, Dennis trained Casa Valencia's entire family. They became friends, Dennis took him out to dinner, Casa Valencia invited him to his Plantation home for a barbecue.
Dennis Reilly: "It was like eight months I helped these people out. Actually, it was hurting my own health."
But the investors say the big returns never happened, and when they asked for their money back, they ended up with bounced checks. They lost most of their investments. There are currently six bad check charges pending against Casa Valencia, who is also the target of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Carmel Cafiero: "Casa Valencia was living in this house in Plantation Acres when the money changed hands. The victims say his entire family took part in tricking them. It is all being investigated by the Plantation Police Department."
Detective Phillip Toman: "We have three victims in the city that we are working on, and we are currently investigating Carlos Casa Valencia and his family for investment theft."
The family is now living in a gated community in Pembroke Pines. Carlos Casa Valencia filed for bankruptcy, claiming the investments were loans. Judge John K. Olson dismissed it on the basis of bad faith and concluded Casa Valencia engaged in a deliberate and fraudulent scheme to sell securities, and that Carlos Casa Valencia is nothing more than a thief who preyed upon hard-working victims.
Walter Mathews: "He was not licensed."
Attorney Walter Mathews represents Dennis Reily. He has filed a lawsuit hoping to get Dennis' money back.
Walter Mathews: "We haven't seen any credible evidence that the guy had any legitimate investment activities that would have generated any proceeds, let alone the interest he was promising to pay."
Carlos Casa Valencia declined an on-camera interview, through his attorney and had no statement about the allegations. In the meantime, this young woman struggles to pay back the mortgage she took out to come up with the investment cash.
Investor: "I'm trying very hard not to, trying to make the payments."
And Gio is working to earn what it took five years to save. As for Dennis and his wife, their dream of a house of their own is on hold since their savings have been wiped out.
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