BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 9, 2020– A Belizean has been found liable for what is known as one of the biggest overseas scams ever investigated by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and his involvement will cost him US$138.7 million.
John Usher, a local businessman and resident of the Stann Creek District, has been found liable for conducting a series of fraudulent acts in the Sanctuary Bay scam.
Sanctuary Bay was a real estate venture in which Usher and his counterparts were marketing parcels of land to American investors in what was promised to be luxury real estate developments in southern Belize. The undertaking yielded over $100 million USD from various US residents wanting to own property in Belize.
Usher became the director of the non-profit Sittee River Wildlife Reserve in 2008, which consisted of entities who agreed to pool their resources together and acquire a large portion of land known as Sanctuary Belize.
Eco Futures Belize, which was managed by John Usher, was also identified in the FTC document. The company was given an exclusive development contract in 2012, and received tax concessions to carry out the project, as stated in a confidential Cabinet of Belize memo.
In November of 2018, however, the FTC filed a suit in a federal district court alleging that the “defendants [i.e. Usher, et al] misrepresented what they were building, how long it would take to build, and what returns buyers could expect from purchasing a lot in a beach community in Belize.”
The FTC also alleged that the defendants misrepresented how easy it would be to resell lots.
John Usher was apparently working in conjunction with American nationals Andris Pukke and Luke Chadwick. Additionally, Usher is also the director of the Sanctuary Belize Property Owner’s Association, and multiple SBE marketing materials have listed him as the “Chairman”, “Developer” or “Principal.” He acted as the exclusive point person of the project, meeting with hundreds of Americans who invested in the project.
The court’s default judgment states that Usher “should be held liable for the complete amount of consumer losses sustained from his conduct in SBE’s deceptive telemarketing and sales practices, which amounts to $138.7 million…John Usher must, within thirty (30) days, pay to the Commission one hundred thirty eight million, seven hundred thousand dollars ($138,700,000.00)”
The court has also ruled that Usher, the “Defaulting Corporate Defendants” and the Estate of John Pukke are permanently “restrained” and enjoined from telemarketing or assisting others in telemarketing.
Usher is required to transfer all rights he may have in Sanctuary Belize or any companies or entities that have any rights associated with the Sanctuary Parcel to the Receiver, identified in the simultaneously issued Default Order.
Usher’s assets have been frozen and he must also relinquish all assets and rights associated with the Defaulting Corporate Defendants. Usher did not appear in court; therefore, his ruling was conveyed to his attorney.
It is not known whether Usher is in Belize. He could not be reached for comment.