Offering “low-risk” investments in his company, which he claimed was giving high-interest loans to property owners in Costa Rica, Dermis Hernandez, 41, a 12 year Miami police officer, was arrested Monday after FBI agents learned he was suddenly flying to Costa Rica because of an “emergency.”

Fearing his nonreturn, given his wife is a Costa Rican national, FBI agents cuffed Hernandez while he was boarding a flight at Fort Lauderdale to San Jose.

According to the FBI, Hernandez told potential investors the loan recipients used their properties in Costa Rica as collateral.

“Targeting active and retired cops, Hernandez and ‘co-conspirators’ showed phony paperwork showing the company had property rights to land in Costa Rica. In truth, Hernandez and his co-conspirators used the investor funds for personal enrichment and to pay the returns of other investors,” according to the criminal complaint by FBI Agent Sarah Halleran.

At least one victim paid out US$10,000 from his police retirement fund — with Hernandez instructing him how to withdraw the money. The victim believed he would be getting a 20% return on the investment per year. Another victim told agents he was promised a whopping 24% return on the investment, that led him to invest US$125,000, while only ever receiving US$17,000 back in interest payments.

Hernandez is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Miami police internal affairs and the FBI said Hernandez operated his Ponzi scheme between 2011 and 2015 through a company called DD&M Investments.

Prosecutors say Hernandez and others used most of the money for themselves and to pay returns of earlier investors in a classic Ponzi scheme.

“It was disgraceful behavior and we are working to quickly end his employment,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, adding that no other officers have been implicated.

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