A Venezuelan man who fled to his homeland to evade prosecution in South Florida in an investor-fraud case has been arrested and is awaiting trial in Miami.
Anibangel Molina, 45, was arrested March 16 at Miami International Airport by U.S. marshals, according to court documents. His attorney, Frank Rubino, told el Nuevo Herald that his client returned on his own and surrendered to authorities at the airport.
Molina’s arrest in Miami could unlock new details in the case, which came to a halt in March 2014 when two associates of his in Miami, his ex-wife Betsy Aguiar and his ex-employee, Antonino Castro, were sentenced to prison.
Rubino said Molina was “negotiating with the government to resolve the case by way of a guilty plea.”
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The case began in 2013 when federal agents arrested three people in South Florida and accused them of defrauding dozens of people after luring them to invest in nonexistent stocks in precious metals, oil, foreign currency and high-interest checking accounts.
Instead of paying dividends as promised, some of the suspects spent the money on personal items including an SUV and the rent for a five-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, according to federal officials familiar with the case.
A federal magistrate granted bond to the suspects after their arrest. Castro and Aguiar complied with restrictions and showed up at their hearings including their sentencing. Molina, meanwhile, fled to Venezuela shortly after being released on bond.
At the sentencing hearing for Aguiar and Castro, Molina was described by the other defendants as the mastermind behind the scam.
The Ponzi scheme ruined many investors who lost their life savings or their pensions.
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum did not buy the explanations by Aguiar and Castro that their involvement in the case was not as substantial as that of Molina.
Though Rosenbaum allowed Aguiar to remain free until she reported to prison, she ordered the immediate jailing of Castro because of fears that he might flee to Cuba, where he traveled often.
On March 17, one day after his arrest at the Miami airport, Molina appeared in Miami federal court where Magistrate Judge Patrick A. White revoked his bond and ordered him held pending trial. Molina had pleaded not guilty and demanded trial before fleeing.
Trial has been tentatively set for May.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy