U.S. charges New York fund manager with Belize airport scam

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York investment manager was arrested on Wednesday and charged with fraudulently raising about $21.9 million that he told his investors would be used to build an international airport in Belize, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Brent Borland, a principal at Borland Capital Group, was accused of having promised double-digit rates of return on investments related to temporary "bridge" financing for the airport in Placencia, roughly 110 miles (177 km) south of Belize City, and secured by real property in Belize.

Instead, authorities said all investors in Borland's Belize Infrastructure Fund lost money, while the 48-year-old resident of Sag Harbor, New York and Delray Beach, Florida diverted close to $6 million to fund a lavish lifestyle for his family.

This sum allegedly included $2.67 million of credit card bills, mortgage payments on a Florida mansion, a Mercedes-Benz SUV, membership dues at the Delray Beach Club, and private school tuition for Borland's children.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a related civil case that Borland invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination when questioned by that regulator.

A lawyer for Borland did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the alleged scheme, which prosecutors said ran from 2014 through March 2018.

"Cases such as this serve as a cautionary tale for investors - always carefully vet your investments - and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan said in statement. 

Borland was criminally charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy counts. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each fraud count if convicted. The SEC is seeking to recoup illegal profit, impose civil fines, and obtain an asset freeze.

The cases are U.S. v. Borland, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-mag-04035; and SEC v Borland et al in the same court, No. 18-04352.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

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