Thursday, February 28, 2002

Suit filed against Fiorini, others




By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Cincinnati woman who says she was duped by George Fiorini's 10 Percent Income Plus Plan in 1999 has filed the first lawsuit, and it welcomes other victims to join.

        The racketeering and fraud lawsuit was filed by Mildred Finch, 77, in U.S. District Court. It names Mr. Fiorini, Stephen Ventre, Guardian Investments, Sanitec of Kentucky and Standard Life Insurance Co. of Indiana as defendants.

        According to the eight-page complaint filed by Cincinnati lawyer William Singer, Ms. Finch invested in the 10 Percent plan through Mr. Fiorini. In return, she received promissory notes in a company called Standard Trust that were later converted into Guardian Investments. Mr. Singer said she invested $264,000.

        Ms. Finch alleges that Mr. Ventre, who ran Guardian, said her money was safe and that “everything is registered.” Instead, her money was squandered by Mr. Ventre and associates on “lavish lifestyles and expensive perquisites.”

        As the 10 Percent scam has unraveled on several legal fronts, Tristate investors who bought into it have sought a class-action lawsuit to join. The state of Ohio obtained court injunctions blocking Mr. Fiorini and Guardian from raising more money, but Ohio law prevents it from seeking restitution for investors.

        Mr. Singer said he doesn't know precisely how many victims there are.

        “The guy (Mr. Fiorini) was pretty active for between five and 10 years and sold his bill of goods all over the metropolitan area,” he said. “They're sufficiently numerous to make it a class action.”

        If a federal judge decides to open the case to all, Mr. Singer said the notification process will begin.

        Ernest Eynon II, who represents Mr. Fiorini, and Patrick Hanley, who represents Mr. Ventre and Guardian, said Wednesday they had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment.

        Mr. Fiorini consented to the state's civil fraud charges in 2000, but has not been charged with any crimes. The federal government, however, has seized eight exotic cars and a boat alleged to have been bought with investors' money. It is also going after his house and eight other properties, including a condo in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and three condos in Sarasota County, Fla.

       



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