Barbara Zaragoza 8:04 p.m., Dec. 19
Local senior says he was defrauded by scammer targeting Latinos
Retired bus driver had his life savings taken after investing in Vegas express bus venture
A retired San Diego bus driver has filed suit against Luis Berrios and LBA Express, a shuttle service to Las Vegas, claiming elder abuse and fraud.
Jose Carrillo, who is in his mid-sixties and survives on Social Security and a small pension, says that Barrios systematically preys on Latinos, putting forth a flashy image and portraying himself as “a man of God.” In truth, claims Carrillo, Berrios is a swindler who defrauded him of nearly his entire life savings.
Carrillo says that Berrios met with him and promised a return of $200 per month or $500 every three months for each $5,000 “invested” with LBA for a period of one year. After that, the principal was to be paid back in full. The investment was “100 percent safe,” Berrios promised, stating that the money was secured by the tour buses and shuttle vans owned by the company.
So Carrillo began sending in money in $5,000 increments over seven months, eventually turning over his entire $35,000 savings account. While he was sending money, the payments on cash already invested came in with no problems. But as soon as the outgoing money stopped, so did the return checks.
In May of 2012, Carrillo called to ask why he hadn’t received his monthly check, and was told that a secretary had forgotten to mail it. According to the complaint, Carrillo followed up again several days later and was given another story.
Berrios, who had provided Carrillo with seven promissory notes for the $5,000 payments, all drafted in Spanish, eventually executed another agreement in September 2012, promising to repay all of the missing funds. Carrillo says he’s still waiting for his first payment.
In the suit, Carrillo seeks a return of his money as well as punitive damages for financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment.
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