2008-12-04 / Front Page

Man accused of bilking investors out of $500K

By Adrienne Downing

State police arrested a Jamestown man on Tuesday for the second time after they determined that he scammed investors out of over $500,000.

Charles Pruenca, of 89 Frigate St., faces three felony charges of obtaining money under false pretenses and one count of delivery of a fraudulent check over $1,000.

Pruenca was arrested Nov. 5 on charges that, while posing as a Boston Red Sox talent scout, he had received $6,300 for Red Sox tickets that he never delivered.

According to Lt. David Neill of the Rhode Island State Police, 12 other victims came forward after seeing the reports of the arrest in the media.

Of the 12, only three substantiated claims have so far turned into charges. "The complaints have slowly come in and we are investigating them as they come in. There will be more arrests coming," Lt. Neill said.

One of the first complaints logged with the authorities was from John Collins Jr.

State police said Pruenca told victims, including Collins, that he and a partner were involved in the Forest Pond Condominium Development in Warwick and could arrange for the purchase of condominium units at discount preconstruction prices.

Pruenca informed the victims that they would be able to re-sell the units for quick profit after the construction was completed and he obtained deposit money on several units from the victims. The investigation revealed that the actual developers did not know Pruenca and had not sold any of the units pre-construction.

According to police, Pruenca also told one of the victims that he was purchasing properties in Warwick and Jamestown at tax sales and asked if he would like to be involved as a partner. This victim provided $475,000 to Pruenca and was told that he would have to wait one year to "redeem" the properties. When the victim inquired about the status of the properties, Pruenca made excuses and never returned any money, police said.

According to Jamestown fi- nance director Tina Collins, Pruenca has not purchased any property at a tax sale in Jamestown.

"We believe the entire time he was doing this he was unemployed. Basically, what it looks like he was doing was a shell scam," Lt. Neill said. "He would take the money and then when the investors would start inquiring about the status of their investment, he would give them $20,000. He was using the money he got from one person to pay a small amount to another."

Another victim, Robert Vincent, was bilked out of $33,000 after he loaned Pruenca the money for a friend's supposed liver transplant. He had previously given more than $100,000 to Pruenca for Red Sox tickets that never materialized.

Pruenca's scam finally evaporated on Nov. 12, when his girlfriend told him he must repay her boss, from whom he had taken money. Pruenca went to the Greenwood Credit Union and attempted to deposit a check in the amount of $315,000. The check was drawn on Pruenca's Bank RI account. The teller questioned the transaction when Pruenca kept asking when the funds would be available for withdrawal and said that he needed the money for his father's medical bills. A Greenwood Credit Union representative checked with the issuing bank and was told that the account had been closed in 2004.

He was arrested without incident at his Frigate Street home and was arraigned yesterday in Third District Court. The judge set his bail at $50,000 and Pruenca was transported to the Adult Correctional Institute in Cranston, state police said.

The state police are urging that anyone with information contact the Financial Crimes Unit at 444- 1000.

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