Updated April 25, 2019​ 

Sri Lanka Express

SL businessman Edwards faces new charges in US:
 "Help the Homeless" scam

 By Hassina Leelarathna
September 4, 2017
Sri Lankan businessman Rienzi Edwards whos calls himself a "proud patron" of St. Anthony's soup kitchen and whose wife Punya Edwards donated Rs. 1 million to Parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to build homes for the poor is being charged in the US with using homelessness to scam investors.

In a superseding indictment filed August 31 in a United States federal court, a grand jury added new charges against Rienzie Edwards and his co-conspirators who had already been indicted for allegedly bilking millions from investors in the Cities Upliftment Program (CUP) fraud scheme .   

The amended indictment signed by Joon H. Kim,  Acting US Attorney, Southern District of New York, alleges that in addition to the CUP fraud scheme, Edwards and co-defendants Lawrence Lester and Rachel Gendreau operated a similar fraudulent scheme called "Help the Homeless" (HTCH) falsely telling investors that the program was operated by the New York Fed and that for every $25,000 invested the program would generate a return of $5 million in 18 months. Under the scheme, operated February 2016 through December 2016, investors were promised that half of the returns would be paid to them and the other half would be used to build houses for the homeless in the USA.

"In furtherance of the HTH scheme, Edwards, Lester, and Gendreau made numerous other misrepresentations to investors in order to induce them to invest.  Through the HTH scheme, Edwards, Lester, and Gendreau, and their co-conspirators collectively stole over $2 million from victims in the United States and other countries."  

Investors were told that funds would be held in a trust account and once funds were wired, the defendants caused bogus account statements to be prepared and sent to investors showing returns purportedly acccrued by the HTH program.  "On multiple occasions, Edwards used the names and identities of other real persons to create and send emails and other correspondence in furtherance of the HTH scheme."
With the HTH fraud allegations, two additional counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft were added bringing the total number of charges to 12.

According to the allegations contained in the original indictment unsealed December 13, 2016, from at least June 2013 through August 2016, Rienzi Edwards, Michael Jacobs, Ruby Handler-Jacobs, F.K.Ho, Lawrence Lester, and Rachel Gendreau orchestrated and executed a fraudulent high-yield investment program known as the “Cities Upliftment Program,” or CUP, which the defendants falsely told investors was operated by the New York Fed.  

The indictment named Edwards as the mastermind behind the scheme which was marketed to investors around the world through brokers, including Ho, Lester and Gendreau.

The CUP  was pitched as a highly exclusive, invitation-only, public-private investment partnership designed to raise capital and generate large returns through a purported “trading program” run by the New York Fed.  Investors were  promised extremely high returns on their investments, in some cases as much as $150 million for every $1 million invested.  They  were led to believe that  half of the returns would be used to help revitalize American cities recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and that the other half would be returned to the investors at the rate of $1 million per day for 75 banking days. “ The defendants told numerous other lies to victims to convince them to invest, including that their funds would be held in a trust account established by the New York Fed and that CUP investments were risk-free because they were “guaranteed” by the United States government.  In truth, and as the defendants well knew, the CUP was a complete scam.”

Edwards and his conspirators  tricked victims with the use of forged and counterfeit New York Fed documents.  On numerous occasions, the defendants sent, or caused to be sent, investment contracts, guarantees, correspondence, and other CUP-related documents printed on what appeared to be New York Fed letterhead and bearing the names and purported signatures of New York Fed officials, including the president, certain board members, and other senior officials of the New York Fed.  In addition, Edwards, Jacobs, and Ho  with the assistance of Handler -Jacobs impersonated New York Fed officials during in-person meetings and phone calls with investors. in the CUP.

   Rienzie Edwards