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Investment firm owner held on bribery charge

Times Staff Writer

An investment promoter who promised Spanish speakers a bonanza in distressed real estate but allegedly cost them millions of dollars has been arrested on a federal charge of bribing a bank executive.

Juan Rangel of Downey, 44, owner of Commerce-based Financial Plus Investments, was in custody pending a bail hearing Friday in Los Angeles.

In a court affidavit, FBI Special Agent Stephanie A. Talamantez said dozens of investors mobbed the offices of Financial Plus Investments and two related companies, RQ Investments and RQ Properties, after Rangel closed the firms July 25. Then the investors headed for the FBI’s office in West Covina.

Prosecutors said they had documented more than $8 million in losses from about 150 victims -- a fraction of the 600 to 800 investors who are believed to have entrusted Rangel with funds.

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Rangel’s attorney, Bryan Altman of Beverly Hills, said his client had hoped before he was arrested to work with authorities to help recover as much as possible for his hundreds of investors.

“The downturn in real estate values has severely affected the company’s ability to pay investors,” Altman said. “This is incredibly stressful for Mr. Rangel. His concern is for the investors in his various companies.”

The FBI arrested Rangel on Friday. A criminal complaint filed Saturday accuses him of bribing an employee of a financial institution.

Prosecutors, contending Rangel’s Mexican citizenship made him a flight risk, said Monday that they would seek to have him held without bail.

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The affidavit alleges that Rangel, who advertised in Spanish-language media, was operating a Ponzi scheme -- using later investors’ money to pay false profit to earlier investors -- and was promising to double their money. Victims were told Rangel was lending money at high interest rates to distressed homeowners, the FBI said.

Rangel allegedly paid a Bank of America branch manager, identified only as D.G., to cover up bank activities to further his alleged fraud. Bank of America spokeswoman Colleen Haggerty declined to identify the manager, although she said a bank employee had been interviewed by the FBI and that the bank would cooperate with federal authorities.

Rangel believed that in exchange for payments, the bank manager would accept large cash deposits without filing reports required for cash transactions of more than $10,000, the FBI affidavit says. The bank manager contended that he had actually filed the reports without telling Rangel, the affidavit says.

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scott.reckard@latimes.com


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