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Cosmo Gets 25 Years in Prison for $413 Million Ponzi Scheme

Nicholas Cosmo
Nicholas Cosmo, president of Agape World Inc., is escorted into the U.S. Postal Inspectors office in Hicksville, New York on Jan. 26, 2009. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Nicholas Cosmo, who pleaded guilty to running a $413 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Cosmo, owner of Agape World Inc. and Agape Merchant Advance LLC, was arrested in January 2009. He claimed Agape solicited investor funds that were used to make short-term bridge loans. Agape received about $413 million from investors, while only about $30 million in loans were made, according to the government. Actual losses to victims were about $195 million.

“Those who lie and steal from the investing public are on notice that they face severe penalties,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn said today in a statement. “As recounted today in court by several of his victims, the defendant’s actions crushed the hopes and dreams of everyday citizens.”

Cosmo, who was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip, New York, operated the scheme from October 2003 to January 2009. He solicited funds from investors “well in excess” of what he told them was needed for bridge loans, prosecutors said, and then pocketed the money.

Richard W. Levitt, a lawyer for Cosmo at Levitt & Kaizer in New York, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the sentence.

In August 2010, Richard Barry, a former vice president and underwriter at Agape World Inc., pleaded guilty participating in the scheme. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 2.

Agape had offices in Hauppauge on Long Island, and in New York City’s Queens neighborhoods of Maspeth and Jackson Heights.

Cosmo’s case is U.S. v. Cosmo, 09-cr-00255, and Barry’s case is U.S. v. Barry, 10-cr-00648, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Central Islip).

To contact the reporter on this story: Thom Weidlich in Brooklyn, New York, at pathurtado@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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