MIAMI — A man is accused of bilking thousands of Haitian-Americans of more than $23-million in an investment scheme where he promised to create a "nation of Haitian millionaires."
George Theodule used his Haitian background to urge Haitian-Americans nationwide to form investment clubs and funnel funds through his Lake Worth company, Creative Capital, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday.
Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks issued an emergency order Monday to halt the alleged scheme and freeze the company's assets.
An e-mail and a phone message left for Theodule's attorney, and messages left at phone numbers listed for Theodule in Palm Beach County and in Loganville, Ga., where he moved in September, were not immediately returned.
Theodule's company raised at least $23.4-million since November 2007, regulators said. Theodule, 48, allegedly guaranteed a 100 percent return on all investments within three months.
"He pitched himself as a man of God who was going to create a nation of Haitian millionaires," said Jared Levy, a West Palm Beach lawyer who filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Theodule on Friday.
A minimum investment of $1,000 per investor was required. Theodule accepted only cash, and targeted churches with large Haitian populations, Levy said.
However, Theodule lost at least $18-million trading stocks and options over the past year and repaid investors with money collected from new investors, according to the SEC complaint.
Theodule also mixed the investors' money with his own and took at least $3.8-million for personal use, including two luxury vehicles, a down payment on a house, credit card bills and payment for a wedding, regulators said.