Waipahu man says he lost a fortune to investment fraud

Danny Laforga
Danny Laforga

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

WAIPAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -- Danny Laforga plays music as a hobby, waits on tables for a living, and wonders where his money went.

"He promised me twenty percent interest on my investment. It was also compounding which meant the interest earned interest," he said.

Laforga said in 2001 Prudencio Pilar, a respected member of Oahu's Filipino-Catholic community, convinced him to invest in securities. So he gave him a check for $55,000.

"Hindsight, I should have dug deeper and done more homework but the trust was there," he said.

Through 2004 Laforga said he invested nearly $200,000 with Pilar. Then came July.

"On July 7 I received a letter notifying me that he had lost all my money and pretty much went underground," Laforga said. "I had to read the letter a couple of times. Even a day after I still was in shock. I was mortified. No this can't be happening."

Laforga learned of several others who got the same letter. And he discovered the man who allegedly took his money has a history. In 2000 the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs barred Pilar from selling securities and penalized him for lying to sixteen investors. Their loss totaled about $80,000.

"We're talking about people's lives," DCCA Securities Commissioner Tung Chan said. "That money was supposed to be used to put their kids through college, or if they're seniors, for them to live in retirement. Now they have to go back to work or they have to mortgage their house again or they get foreclosed on."

We went to the address on Pilar's business letterhead and were told he moved out of the Kalihi valley home. We found his wife working at a church in Kalihi. She declined an interview but told us Prudencio disappeared and abandoned the family on July 5. She said a short time later he called and said he was in the Philippines and could not be reached.

In a written statement, one of Pilar's sons said his father's alleged crime is tearing their family apart.

"On behalf of our family we're sorry he did this," he wrote.

DCCA investigators are now tracking Pilar's paper trail and interviewing others who invested.

It's one of 127 cases of suspected securities violations in Hawaii.

"We do see affinity fraud happening, which is people leveraging their warm connections with other people," Chan said.

She's urging people who suspect they've been victimized to call the DCCA at 586-2740.

Hawaii News Now has learned Honolulu Police have also opened an investigation on Pilar.

Laforga thinks as many as twenty other people gave their money to Pilar and lost it.

"That was also supposed to help my parents in their retirement," Laforga said. "I feel as though I can't provide for my parents. And that's what kills me."

Pilar's son said the family didn't know about this alleged securities scheme.

Before Pilar disappeared Laforga told him he wanted to begin withdrawing his money. Now he doubts he'll ever see a cent.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved