Anibangel Molina, a Venezuelan businessman accused of defrauding dozens of investors, intends to plead guilty in the case later this month, according to Miami federal court records.
The plea agreement marks a major milestone in a case that originally drew media attention in South Florida when special agents from Homeland Security Investigations,arrested Molina and two associates — Betsy Aguiar of Miami Lakes and Antonino Castro of Hialeah — on charges of luring investorsto spend more than $4 million on non-existent precious metals, oil, foreign currency and high-interest checking accounts.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, who presides over the case, has set the change of plea hearing for June 21, according to the court docket.
The case began years ago when fraud victims complained to authorities. HSI learned that from November 2011 through November 2012, Molina and associates received at least $4 million from more than 50 investors. None of the defendants or their company, Bancard Financial Services, were registered or licensed to trade in commodities, securities or currency and thus could not serve as brokers for these items, according to court records.
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"It could be dozens or hundreds of people," John Tobon, deputy special agent in charge at the HSI Miami office said at the time Molina and his two principal associates were arrested in May 2013. "Some invested their children's college funds and others lifetime savings."
The defendants all pleaded not guilty and demanded trial by jury after they were arraigned in 2013.
While Molina's ex wife, Aguiar, and his employee Castro, both Cuban-Americans, pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to prison, Molina himself, who was free on bond, fled to Venezuela and hid for a while in Maracaibo, according to officials familiar with the case.
Molina returned March 16 and was arrested at Miami International Airport by U.S. marshals. His attorney, Frank Rubino, told el Nuevo Herald at the time that his client had returned on his own and surrendered to authorities at the airport.
But people familiar with the case in Venezuela have said that Molina returned to the United States because he was about to be arrested in Venezuela over similar fraud charges and preferred to serve his sentence in an American prison instead of a Venezuelan one. This information could not be verified with Venezuelan authorities.