By City News Service
A 61-year-old man was arrested Thursday on federal charges of running a nearly $4 million Ponzi scheme that targeted Latinos.
Luis Alonso Serna of Chatsworth, the pastor of Zion Living Word Christian Center Inc., formerly Amistad Cristiana, in San Fernando, also operated Architects of the Future Investments, a company that purportedly traded in foreign currencies, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Though Serna claimed to be a successful investor, he operated a Ponzi scheme by soliciting funds from investors with false claims that their money would be used to buy foreign currency, according to an updated, six-count indictment returned last week.
Serna allegedly promised to pay investor returns up to 20 percent. More than 70 victims were allegedly talked into investing almost $4 million in his company, according to federal prosecutors.
"This is another sad example of greed overcoming honest business practices," said B. Bernard Ferguson, chief postal inspector for Los Angeles. "Relying on a reputation or relationship is not enough -- investors must still verify information, especially if there are claims of outperforming the market."
Serna is charged with two counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each of the four fraud charges and up to 10 years in prison for both money-laundering counts.