Andre Curtis leaves a string of victims in his wake
Andre Curtis has left a string of victims in his wake through his involvement in controversial investment schemes in Bermuda and beyond.
The Royal Gazette reported last month, he was fined $335,000 and ordered to pay back huge sums of cash for his role in a worldwide Ponzi scheme.
The Montana Commissioner of Securities and Finance ruled Curtis profited after running the scheme in which 22 investors were conned out of a total of $4 million alongside convicted money launderer Daniel Two Feathers in 2008.
He received three fines of $110,000 and one of $5,000, and was ordered to repay victims he duped by falsely promising massive returns.
One of them, American businessman John Sheaffer, took his own life after losing out.
Mr Sheaffer's plight was also referred to during yesterday's court hearing in Bermuda, where Curtis was jailed for 15 months for operating an unlicensed investment business, Harvest Investment Holdings.
He'd falsely claimed the company was registered with the Bermuda Monetary Authority, as it should have been in law. Mr Sheaffer invested in the firm after reading that claim on the company website.
Another victim, police constable Connie Saltus, a mother of three, told the court she was left out of pocket after investing with Curtis.
In a victim impact statement read on her behalf by prosecutor Cindy Clarke, Pc Saltus told how she reported Curtis to the police.
She explained: “Between February and August 2008 I was approached by Mr Curtis on three occasions and asked whether I would be interested in investing cash in a business plan at Harvest Investment Holdings Limited.”
She agreed, and made investments, getting her money back on two occasions. But in August 2008 she handed Curtis a further $12,000, which she has never seen again.
“Mr Curtis told me that I could expect to see a return profit of between $4,000 to $6,000 within four months,” she explained.
“The entire amount was then given to Andre Curtis for the purpose of investing in his business, although I am by no means an experienced investor and would not be able to explain the details.”
Despite repeated requests, she has been unable to retrieve her money, and told the court: “I now know that the promised returned profit of between $4,000 and $6,000 is completely unrealistic.
“The money given to Mr Curtis represented almost all of my available funds at that time, the majority of which constituted back pay from the Government.
“As a single parent of three children I can ill afford to make investments of this type without it having a huge negative effect on myself and my family.”
Pc Saltus said that in December 2008: “I informed Mr Curtis of the fact that I was unable to buy my family any Christmas gifts whatsoever that year and hoped that he and his daughter enjoyed theirs.
“Mr Curtis did not even respond, and did not seem bothered by my financial situation. As a result I would describe my emotional feelings as that I'd let my family down for making such a bad decision.”
As recently as October this year, Pc Saltus said that during a conversation about her missing funds, “Mr Curtis asked me if I could lend him $200, which I of course refused”.
Yesterday, besides jailing Curtis for 15 months, Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves ordered him to pay Pc Saltus back her money within 15 months or face a longer sentence.
Defence lawyer Charles Richardson said Curtis always intended to do so, but will experience problems repaying the funds now he is behind bars.
He dismissed the comment Curtis made about borrowing $200 from Pc Saltus as “a joke, because they are still cordial”.
Pc Saltus declined to comment after the hearing.
Jeremy Cox, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, said: “The Authority notes the result of the criminal prosecution undertaken in relation to Mr. Andre Curtis, based on a formal complaint we submitted to the police service last year.
“We are very satisfied with this result, and this matter has been addressed appropriately by our colleagues in the police service and in the courts.
”We view offences relating to unlicensed activity in relation to investment businesses, and financial services in general, as extremely serious.
“Such offences undermine public policy designed to ensure investor protection, and can ultimately impact Bermuda's good standing as a jurisdiction. The Authority remains committed to taking any appropriate action to ensure that such conduct is minimised.”