Former investment CEO scammed $880 million with pyramid scheme

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A federal grand jury has indicted a South Florida man on charges he allegedly scammed investors out of $880 million in a Ponzi scheme with promises of profits from a fake wholesale grocery business.

Nevin Shapiro, 41, of Miami Beach, surrendered to FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents in April and remains in federal custody. Shapiro is the former owner and chief executive officer of Capitol Investments USA Inc.

The indictment claims that Capitol had no wholesale grocery business when Shapiro allegedly gathered investors nationwide from January 2005 to November 2009, telling them the money would go to fund the business. Instead, Shapiro used new investor funds to pay existing investors, as well as to fund a lavish lifestyle, says the FBI in announcing the indictment.

Shapiro allegedly collected cash from more than 60 investors nationwide and spent $35 million of it on mortgage payments on a $5.3 million mansion, Miami Heat floor seats and payments on a $1.5 million Riviera yacht and a leased Mercedes-Benz.

Shapiro also allegedly gave basketball star Shaquille O'Neal a pair of diamond-studded handcuffs and gave donations to the University of Miami's athletic program, says The South Florida Business Journal. The indictment didn't specifically name O'Neal or the university, but did mention the gifts.

Shapiro and Capitol were forced into bankruptcy in November, the FBI says. If convicted on all six charges -- including wire fraud and money laundering -- Shapiro could face 55 years in prison.
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