Aspen warrant highlights how alleged $30M Ponzi scheme touting ‘fancy diamonds’ made its way into valley
The Aspen Times
Touting “fancy colored diamonds” as a hook, a Florida man and his partners built what the federal government calls a $30 million Ponzi scheme that ensnared hundreds of investors, including a Roaring Fork Valley couple.
This past week, the Basalt-area couple’s efforts to recover their $500,000 investment in the diamond company resulted in a felony arrest warrant signed by a Pitkin County District Court judge for the man from Florida allegedly behind the scheme.
Jose Angel Aman, 50, of Wellington, Florida, has not yet been arrested on the on felony theft and check fraud charges, and attempts to reach him for comment Friday were not successful.
Aman and two partners — including a Canadian with a long-running weekly radio show that touts investment opportunities and has a house in the valley — were accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission in May of running a three-tiered Ponzi scheme that raised more than $30 million from about 300 investors from late 2013 to the date of the filing, according to federal court documents.
“They told prospective investors that Natural Diamonds would use investor funds to acquire raw colored diamonds known as ‘fancy colored diamonds,’ which they would then cut, polish and resell for profits that would result in investment returns of 24% and the full return of investors’ principal within two years,” according to the SEC court order in May, which was filed in U.S. District Court in South Florida.
“In reality, Natural Diamonds was a Ponzi scheme. Aman and Natural Diamonds used investor funds to pay prior investors with their purported returns.”
Aman and his partners, Harold Seigel and his son Jonathan Seigel, allegedly created a second entity called Eagle Financial Diamond Group “when the well began to run dry in 2015” on Natural Diamonds, the SEC alleged. Then, when the second company “lacked funds to continue the Ponzi scheme,” the partners created a third company, which offered a cryptocurrency backed by diamonds, according to the SEC complaint.
Seigel allegedly touted the diamond investments on his radio show, called “The World Financial Report,” then handed off prospective investors to his son, who provided more details via phone calls and email, according to the complaint.
All three companies now are controlled by a court-appointed receiver, who is tracking down assets, selling them and distributing funds to investors, according to court documents.
The Pitkin County charges stem from a Basalt-area husband and wife’s $500,000 investment with Aman in Natural Diamonds in September 2013, according to the arrest warrant affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court. In December 2018, Aman mailed the couple a check for $100,000 as partial re-payment for the principal, but the check bounced.
Aman told the couple the money would be available in a couple days, so they waited 10 more days before trying to re-deposit it, according to the affidavit. But it was again returned for insufficient funds, and the couple was unable to reach Aman again.
In a phone interview Friday, the woman said they actually invested the money with Harold Seigel, who owns a home next to theirs in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“He was like, ‘Oh buddy, I’ll never let anything happen to your money,’” she said. “We didn’t even know he had a partner (named) Jose.”
The couple did receive some of the monthly interest payments the company promised, but were attempting to get back their $500,000, of which the $100,000 check was the first installment, she said.
“We were trying to get out for the last three years,” she said. “That was retirement money.”
The couple is on the list of investors to be reimbursed with the funds gathered by the receiver. So far, they haven’t gotten any of their money back, she said.
Reclaimed assets include $2.1 million from a West Palm Beach church called Winners Church International, where Aman was an official. The church received numerous unexplained donations from him, according to the receiver’s most recent filing from Jan. 30.
The receiver’s report also briefly mentions a “Colorado property” owned by Seigel.
“Regarding the Seigel home and property in Colorado, the SEC and I continue to be aware of the issue and continue our analysis of this sizable asset,” the report states. “I will keep the victims updated regarding the ultimate disposition of this asset.”
No other information about the Colorado property is divulged in the receiver’s report.
However, Pitkin County property records indicate that Harold Seigel’s wife, Harriet, owns a roughly 4,000-square-foot home on Sopris Creek Road in Basalt valued at a little more than $2 million.
Aman, the Seigels and their lawyers have been cooperative with the receiver’s efforts to redistribute assets, according to the receiver’s report.
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