Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RULESS PIERRE was sentenced to 84 months in prison yesterday in connection with his Ponzi-like securities fraud schemes that primarily targeted PIERRE’s own Haitian community in Rockland County, New York. PIERRE was convicted of securities fraud, wire fraud, and structuring offenses after a jury trial in May 2021 before U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein, who imposed the sentence.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Ruless Pierre violated the trust of his closest friends and fellow community members. Pierre’s brazen lies caused many of his victims not only financial losses, but long-lasting emotional damage as well. This sentence achieves some measure of justice for Pierre’s victims and puts fraudsters on notice that we will protect investors from those that would violate their trust.”
According to the Complaint, the Indictment, and the evidence presented at trial:
Investment Promissory Fraud
From at least November 2016 through October 2019, PIERRE solicited money from investors in Ruless Pierre Consulting Group (“RPCG”) by falsely promising them that he would earn a 20% return on their initial investment every 60 days through stock trading (the “Promissory Note Fraud”). The investments were written down in documents known as “Investment Promissory Notes.” These investment contracts generally promised that the investor would be paid 20% interest every 60 days and that the investor could withdraw all funds from the investment with 30 days’ notice. Based on these documents and the false representations of PIERRE, the investors understood that their principal and interest were guaranteed.
During the course of the investment fraud scheme, PIERRE fraudulently obtained over $2 million from approximately 100 investors. After receiving money from investors, PIERRE deposited the money into one of his personal bank accounts or bank accounts of RPCG. PIERRE then transferred the money to trading accounts, where he engaged in unprofitable day trading. Despite his trading losses, PIERRE repeatedly and falsely represented to investors, including in investment statements containing fictitious balances, that the trading was profitable and that their investments were growing as promised. In addition to losing their money, PIERRE also used investors’ funds to pay for personal expenses, including luxury vehicles. Additionally, PIERRE further concealed the truth from investors by using money obtained from new investors to make redemption payments to previous investors, in Ponzi-like fashion.
The Franchise Investment Fraud
Beginning in or about November 2018, PIERRE began to offer investors, including some individuals who invested in his Promissory Note Fraud, the opportunity to purchase partnership interests in a partnership that would run three fast-food franchise locations (hereinafter, the “Franchise Investment Fraud”). At the time, PIERRE did not own any of the fast-food franchises, but he was in discussions regarding purchasing them. Each investment was memorialized in a document entitled “Silent Partnership Agreement.”
The Silent Partnership Agreements promised the investors a 5% monthly return on the investment, in addition to a 40% pro rata share of the quarterly gross operating profit. The minimum investment was $5,000.
The Silent Partnership Agreements further provided that PIERRE was the General Partner, and that he was responsible “for the complete management, control, and policies related to the operation and conduct of the business.”
PIERRE received financial statements for the franchise locations, which showed minimal profits. Nonetheless, PIERRE promised investors an unrealistic 5% monthly return on their investment.
In or about April 2019, PIERRE purchased one fast food franchise for approximately $50,000. Pierre did not purchase the other franchises.
PIERRE deposited the fast-food franchise investors’ money in various bank accounts, which commingled the funds from the Franchise Investment Fraud with the Promissory Note Fraud. In Ponzi-like fashion, PIERRE fraudulently misappropriated some of the fast-food franchise investors’ money to pay back investors in the Promissory Note Fraud.
In total, PIERRE raised at least $200,000 by selling the Silent Partnership Agreements to at least 18 investors. Some of the investors were paid their five percent monthly distribution, but the vast majority of the investors were not been made whole. The fast-food franchise went out of business in December 2019.
The Embezzlement Fraud Scheme and Structuring
In the another scheme, PIERRE embezzled money from his former employers. From approximately 2007 until February 2016, PIERRE was the director of finance for two different hotels, which were owned by the same company (“Company-1”). One hotel was located in the Palisades, New York (“Hotel-1”), while the other was located in Armonk, New York (“Hotel-2”) (collectively, “the Hotels”). As the director of finance, PIERRE was the signatory on several bank accounts held in the name of the management companies that managed the Hotels (“Management Companies”).
After August 2018, PIERRE no longer worked at either Hotel-1 or Hotel-2, but he regularly wrote himself checks payable to cash from the Management Companies’ bank accounts. Specifically, from September 2018 through March 2019, PIERRE wrote over 70 checks to “cash” or “petty cash” from one of the bank accounts for Hotel-1, for over $300,000.
In addition, from March 2017 through 2019, PIERRE deposited large amounts of cash into his personal bank accounts in amounts that were generally less than $10,000. The deposits were conducted at various bank locations and typically took place on the same day, consecutive days, or within a short period of time. For example, in just seven months, from June 2018 through December 2018, PIERRE deposited approximately $225,612, through 138 cash deposits all under $10,000, into a bank account in the name of RPCG.
* * *
In addition to the prison term, PIERRE, 52, of Nanuet, New York, was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release and was ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $3,701,893.91 and restitution to victims in the amount of $2,030,337.32.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations and thanked the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Internal Revenue Service, the New York City Police Department, and the New York City Sherriff’s Office, which assisted in the investigation. Mr. Williams also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has brought and filed a civil enforcement action against the defendant.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Drew Skinner is in charge of the prosecution.