THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning against a group operated by online personality and convicted scammer Xian Gaza (Christian Albert Gaza) for soliciting investments from the public without a license.

In an advisory on its website, the corporate regulator flagged Cristiano Alberto Real Estate Fund (CARE Fund) as an unregistered business that has no authority to offer securities in the form of an investment scheme.

CARE Fund runs its own website where it claims to be an international venture capital group. It invites the public to invest a minimum of P20,000 for one share, and a maximum of P1 million for 50 shares, from its P100-million fund composed of 5,000 shares,

The group commits to pay back up to a 45% income in two years and a 75% income in five years through a method similar to time deposit or term deposit.

The SEC said this activity can be tagged as offering and selling securities to the public, which is regulated through the Securities Regulation Code. An entity that does this must be registered with the commission as a corporation or a partnership, and must obtain a secondary license authorizing the specific activity. CARE Fund has neither authorization.

“In view thereof, the public is hereby advised to stop investing in this kind of investment activity and to take the necessary precautions in dealing with the above-named entity and/or its representatives,” it said.

CARE Fund and the people behind it may be charged with a fine of up to P5 million, imprisonment of up to 21 years, or both.

In a message to BusinessWorld, Mr. Gaza said he believes he did not fool CARE Fund investors because he told them the “whole truth” that the business is not legal.

“Lahat ng investors na nag-invest sa aking (CARE Fund) ay aware na isa akong convicted scammer. Alam din nila simula’t sapul na ang CARE Fund ay hindi ligal at wala akong finront sa kanilang legalities nor any government registrations (All investors of CARE Fund are aware that I’m a convicted scammer. They knew from the start that CARE Fund is not legal, and I never showed them legalities or any government registrations),” he said.

Mr. Gaza was convicted for issuing bouncing checks in 2018 but left the country last year, a 2019 report by the Philippine Star said. He was sentenced by a Malabon court to serve 5.5 years in prison and to pay more than P2.18 million to the private complainant. — Denise A. Valdez