Christopher F. Venti is accused of making promises he could never keep.
In one instance, according to the FBI, the Hamburg man told clients they could earn 15 times their initial investment in just 20 days.
Venti, who was arrested Friday, is charged with reneging on that pledge and instead pocketing his investors’ money as part of a $7.1 million scheme.
Investigators believe there were other schemes, as well, and that Venti’s victims lost millions of dollars.
“Fraudsters spin webs of broken promises filled with lies and deceit,” Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the FBI in Buffalo, said in a statement after Venti’s arrest.
The allegation is that Venti and others defrauded investors by promising high-yield returns and then keeping some, if not all, of the money for themselves.
Venti operated the schemes over a two-year period starting in late 2011, according to court papers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse said Venti pocketed about $1.1 million of that money. He is accused of using it to make car payments, travel and pay his mortgage.
In the government’s complaint against Venti, the FBI documents a series of admissions that he allegedly made to agents during a search of his home Monday.
“In many cases, I utilized the investors’ funds for personal expenses,” he said, according to court papers. “I knew I could get in trouble for spending these funds and my spending of the funds was illegal.”
Venti, according to the papers, told agents he intended to repay his investors if one of his deals ever became successful.
Arrested at his home on Holiday Lane in Hamburg, he was arraigned Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and released on bail.
“We’re in the process of looking over the criminal complaint and evaluating everything,” said Michael S. Deal, Venti’s defense lawyer.
The complaint against Venti details three separate schemes in which he is accused of working with others to entice investors with a promise of high percentage returns.
The FBI says one of the schemes resulted in six clients, many of them sophisticated investors, kicking in $5.6 million, money Venti and the others were trying to pay back.
As part of its investigation, the government relied on an undercover FBI employee who posed as an investor and recorded two telephone conversations with the defendant.
Those recordings, according to court papers, indicate Venti told the undercover employee that he could earn four times his initial investment without any risk.
That type of promise, according to Boetig, should serve as a reminder that investments that sound too good to be true, often are.
“Investors must exercise due diligence when selecting the people with whom they invest and should avoid opportunities that make exaggerated earnings claims,” he said Friday.
The allegations against Venti revolve around three companies – Secured Strategies LLC, Viewpoint Solutions Group and American Finance Investments – and their alleged involvement in sophisticated high-yield investments.
FBI agents say Secured Strategies, the company Venti was using at the time of his arrest, billed itself as a Wilmington, Del., company even though email, telephone and bank records connected to the company all came back to Venti’s residence in Hamburg.
Investigators believe others took part in the fraud, but, at this point, no one else is charged with any wrongdoing.
The FBI says the investigation is continuing.