Fort Myers couple accused of operating international fraud operation
A Fort Myers couple was caught Monday after authorities say they were operating an international fraud operation. They pocketed more than $120,000 from their clients before the crimes landed them behind bars.
Barry Vigoda and his wife Catherine are now facing charges after they spent years allegedly scamming people from across the country out of money.
According to court documents, Barry Vigoda acted as a commercial mortgage broker, offering deals on loan that seemed too good to be true.
One of the victims, from Lehigh Acres, says she took out a $40 million loan for her startup company.
“He said he could provide us with the funding and we would need a business plan, we would need financial statements, we needed a list of documents, inspection reports of the property and appraisal reports of the property,” she said. The victim wished to remain anonymous.
The victim says Barry Vigoda told her he needed these documents for underwriting, and she had to pay $35,000 up front as an advanced payment, but her loan never came through.
“I would say within a few weeks I got the idea that this wasn’t really a viable option for us…and it didn’t seem plausible that someone would ask for $35,000 up front and then keep on asking for documents after documents,” she said.
Like with several other victims, Barry stopped contact and often said the money was in another country. But investigators found that he and his wife pocketed the money themselves.
“Nothing could be done. I even called my bank to see if something could be done to reverse the wire and nothing could be done,” the victim said.
Some victims questioned why the interest rates were low for their multi-million dollar loans. Experts say if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
It was also revealed that Vigoda pulled a similar scam in Massachusetts several years ago.