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Nobody gets hurt


At least Bernie Maddoff was a little subtle about selling his Ponzi scheme by keeping the returns non-insane if impossibly consistent:

George Santos graciously welcomed his three guests to Il Bacco Ristorante in Queens. Restaurant staff took their coats at the door and escortedthem to a private dining room upstairs. Santos had with him business cards from Harbor City Capital, the Florida-based investment firm where he worked.

He was ready to make his pitch.

With him that night in November 2020 was Christian Lopez, who two years prior was badly injured when a drunk driver smashed into his parked car near where he lived in Queens. His injuries required four surgeries. Lopez had been awarded $2 million in insurance money two months earlier — a fact that Lopez’s attorneysaid she had shared with Santos, a longtime acquaintance.

“I felt like we were in ‘Goodfellas,’ like we were in a mafia movie,” Lopez, 35, told The Washington Post. “They were like, ‘Hello, I see you are here with George, right this way.’ Bringing us to this fancy restaurant and doing all this, I felt like he was doing it to capture us.”

Over wine and caprese salad, Santos laid out a can’t-miss investment opportunity for Lopez to invest in bonds financing digital advertising. “He was saying if you give me $300,000, I am going to make you money. I’m going to make you $3 million,” said Lopez.

Lopez was among several people who in recent days described to The Posthow Santos attempted to persuade them to invest with Harbor City. Santos worked as the company’s New York regional director for more than a year before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit in April 2021, alleging that the firm defrauded investors of millions of dollars in a “classic Ponzi scheme.”

You don’t have to be an honors graduate of Baruch College to figure out that this might not be on the level. The fact that the bill was always $199 might also be a hint.

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