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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake
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 Posted Friday, July 2, 2010       

Crook gets 13.5 years for stealing more than $14 million
Michael J. Muzio was sentenced Wednesday to 13.5 years for his role in a Ponzi scheme that targeted South Florida’s Haitian-American community.

The 46-year-old Tampa man was found guilty in February of one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, two counts of substantive wire fraud, six counts of securities fraud, and two counts of lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Muzio, along with three others - Abner Alabre, 33, of Miramar; Brian Taglieri, 39, of Jupiter; and Ronnie Eugene Bass Jr., 37, of Miramar - were charged in October in connection with a scheme to defraud more than 600 investors throughout South Florida and New Jersey out of more than $14 million.

Muzio solicited investors to buy stock in International Business Ventures Group, a public shell corporation with no assets and virtually no business activities, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

He also issued misleading press releases claiming that International Business Ventures Group had deals to provide and offer prepaid debit cards in Haiti; prepaid calling cards targeting customers in Haiti; and that the company had exclusive rights to market prepaid electric meters in Haiti.

Investors were offered the chance to purchase free-trading shares of stock, but then received certificates for restricted shares, which could not be traded and proved to be worthless.

The court will set a hearing within the next 90 days to determine restitution.

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