'Virtual Concierge' Arrests - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

'Virtual Concierge' Arrests

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It's happened again in South Florida. FBI agents say they have busted yet another multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme. Here's investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with the story.

WSVN -- The sales pitch makes investing in one of these machines sound very lucrative.

YouTube Video: "Do you want to make more money? Then it's time you learned about owning a Virtual Concierge."

The videos were posted to YouTube by JCS Enterprises, a Jupiter company that makes "Virtual Concierge" machines, touch screen kiosks that can be set up in hotels and other public places.

The idea? The machines can print coupons, make reservations and show local attractions. The pitch? Ads on the screen make money for investors.

YouTube Video: "Whoa! What an amazing car. How can you afford this?" "My Virtual Concierge." "Really?!" "Really!"

Carmel Cafiero: Not really, say some investors. They say they got commission money at first, but the cash flow dried up, and now they fear they're out the money they've invested."

Authorities charge it was a $70 million fraud with more than 1,000 investors nationwide. The CEO of JCS, 49-year-old Joseph Signore of Palm Beach Gardens, has been charged with five counts of mail fraud and six counts of wire fraud, plus conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Also facing the same charges, 56-year-old Paul Schumack of Coconut Creek. He appeared in a YouTube video pitching the investment.

YouTube Video: "Since the beginning of the year, with the Virtual Concierge program, we've received a high six-figure income."

Schumack is the head of TBTI. That company is being sued by investors who say it offered them contracts and accepted their payments.

Ellys Cesar: "It's terrible, it's terrible because now I can't even pay my taxes at this point, and it's going to ruin me."

Ellys Cesar owns a landscaping business in Miami Springs. He says he bought 50 Virtual Concierge machines at $3,500 each. He says he was promised a commission of $300 a month per unit, but in January, Cesar says, the checks stopped.

Ellys Cesar: "I put a total of $175,000 and I received back in commission checks $93,000. I can't sleep at night."

These cousins, who asked we not show their faces, say they've lost more than $145,000.

Investor 1: "You figure, all the money you've worked for, is just suddenly gone."

Investor 2: "It's been very very difficult, very distressful to me and my family. Almost no words to explain what I feel. Hopelessness."

And, according to the investors' attorney, part of his clients' problem has been determining who is responsible for what.

Matthew Sarelson, attorney for investors: "If you contact JCS, JCS will tell you, 'We had nothing to do with this, ask TBTI.' If you ask TBTI, they will say, 'We had nothing to do with this, ask JCS.' We don't know the answers yet."

Investors tell us they don't even know if their machines were ever installed.

Investor 2: "I would want to see the person who's to blame, I'd like to seek justice. So whoever's to blame, that's who I want to make sure that they are behind bars."

Signore and Schumack face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The feds say they have also temporarily frozen the assets and accounts of the two defendants and their two companies.

Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
E-mail: clue@wsvn.com

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