Three men have been indicted for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme and stealing $43 million from investors who thought they were putting their money in a Sharia-compliant investment strategy.
According to federal officials, the men ran a firm called Sunrise Equities and told Pakistani-American investors and banks in Chicago that their money would go exclusively into real estate development. Earning interest is prohibited under Sharia, or Islamic law, and observant Muslims cannot invest in financial products that earn interest.
Instead, the money allegedly went to finance the men's other businesses, including a motorcycle parts company in Pakistan and a gas station outside Chicago. They also allegedly used the money to buy and renovate their homes and lease cars, and one of the men built an Islamic school "in order to enhance his reputation in the community." The feds say they used the money from new investors to pay off older investors, and even convinced some clients to refinance their homes so they could give Sunrise more money.