Man charged with defrauding over 100 investors of $14M

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NEW YORK (AP) — A man serving a decade in prison for a financial fraud began working on his next while behind bars, authorities said Friday as they unveiled fresh charges accusing him of duping at least 100 investors into trusting him with $14 million.

Edward Durante, 63, of New York City, pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court after his extradition from Germany. He was held without bail. His attorney, Jennifer Willis, declined to comment.

Prosecutors said Durante funneled more than $9 million of the $14 million from investors to himself, his family and co-conspirators as he lied about how their money would be used. They said he recruited investors nationwide, including from California, the Midwest, New York and Boston.

Philip R. Bartlett, head of the New York office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, called it "a classic case of greed overcoming honest business practices."

Durante faces multiple charges including conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and perjury. If convicted, he could face decades in prison. Prosecutors said he was convicted of similar charges in 2001, when he was also barred from selling securities in the future and was ordered to surrender more than $39 million, which has remained unpaid.

The Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil charges Friday against Durante, accusing him of "laying the groundwork for his next stock fraud" while serving a 10-year prison sentence.

The SEC said that while behind bars, he used a fictitious name, Anthony Walsh, to negotiate the acquisition of VGTel as a shell company before assigning the company's certificates to several entities he controlled to disguise that he controlled most of the company's stock.

After his 2009 prison release, Durante moved to New York City and used fictitious names including Ted Wise and Efran Eisenberg to peddle shares to unsuspecting investors, including a man in the New England area who bought $1.2 million of worthless VGTel stock and then encouraged at least 30 friends and family members to invest as well, the SEC said.

The SEC said Durante held four sales meetings in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, in early 2013 and another in San Diego in September 2013.

"As alleged, Edward Durante no sooner got out of prison from a prior securities fraud conviction than he started another fraud scheme," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release. "Picking up where he left off, Durante allegedly lied to investors about how their money would be used, and concealed his manipulation of the market for a publicly traded stock."

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