In November 2018, the FTC announced that a federal district court in Maryland issued an order temporarily shutting down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted. According to the FTC, the scam was established by Andris Pukke, a recidivist scammer currently living in California, and he perpetuated it even while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice. The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million, marketing lots in what supposedly would become a luxury development in Central America known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve. The FTC alleged that the defendants misled consumers when selling these lots, lying about how risky investments in the development were, how the development was funded, what would be done with money paid for lots, what amenities the development would have, the timeframe those amenities would be built, consumers’ ability to resell lots, and Andris Pukke’s involvement. Several defendants settled prior to the January 2020 trial.
In late August 2020, the district court issued its verdict, finding in favor of the FTC. In early 2021, the court issued final orders against Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, Luke Chadwick, John Usher, and the corporate defendants, limiting what types of business they can engage in moving forward and entering a $120.2 million judgment against them. The defendants appealed and largely lost. During the appeal, Luke Chadwick settled, turning over certain assets and agreeing to a modified order further limiting the types of business he can engage in. After the appeal, the district court entered an order confirming that Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, and John Usher must turn over $120.2 million as well as the corporate defendants and their assets to compensate their victims. In August 2023, the FTC sent approximately $10 million to consumer defrauded by the Sanctuary Belize investment scheme.