At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal district court issued an order that temporarily shut down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted. The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million by marketing lots in what the defendants said would become a luxury development in Belize. The development was known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve.
This page has questions and answers about the case and related topics. You can scroll through the entire page, or click on one of these phrases to see questions and answers about that topic.
- The Case
- Refunds and Consumers’ Interest in Their Lots
- The Receiver
- The Development
- The Property Owners Association
- How to Communicate with the FTC
Note: The Refunds and Consumers’ Interest in Their Lots section was updated on May 13, 2019.
What is this case about?
In November, 2018, the FTC filed suit in federal district court alleging that the defendants misrepresented what they were building, how long it would take to build, and what returns buyers could expect from purchasing a lot in a beach community in Belize. The FTC also alleged that the defendants misrepresented how easy it would be to resell lots.
What is the status of the case?
As of the end of December 2018, the Court issued an order that temporarily shut down Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve, and appointed a receiver to take over the company. The Receiver is a person appointed by the court to locate and manage assets that belong to the defendants and the businesses and people that work for the defendants.
What will happen if the FTC wins the case?
If the FTC wins the case, and if the Court approves, the Receiver will turn over the defendants’ assets to the FTC. Then, the FTC will return those assets to consumers who purchased lots in Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve.
Will the litigation affect buyers’ rights to lots they own?
I own a lot. Do I need to keep making payments on my lot?
It is too early to tell if the Court or the Receiver will require (or try to require) a lot owner to make any additional lot payments or payments to any property owners’ association.
What will happen if the defendants win the case?
If the defendants win the case, they will take control of the receivership assets, including Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve and the various companies or entities that are defendants in this case.
When will this case be finished?
It could take many months — or even years — for this case to finish. The length of a case depends on what happens in the case.
What will happen to the development after the case ends?
If the FTC wins the case, the Court-appointed Receiver will probably sell the defendants’ interest in the development to a new developer or investment group.
How can I look at the court filings in this case?
The FTC has asked the Court to make almost all filings in this case public as soon as possible. As soon as the FTC is permitted to do so, it will put additional FTC filings on this website.
If the Court grants the FTC’s request to make court filings public, you can locate them on the FTC’s website or at the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (“PACER”) website, which is www.pacer.gov.
Where can I get more information about the case?
I purchased a lot. Do I need to opt-in, opt-out, support a plan, pay money to anyone, or take another action before a deadline?
No. The FTC and other parties or groups are proposing interim receivership management plans to the Court. The Court will determine how the receivership operates during the Sanctuary Belize litigation. At this time, you are not required to take any action, pay any money, or make any decision. (Added May 13, 2019)
If the FTC wins the case, will I get my money back?
The FTC always works to return as much money as possible to each person that is affected. In general, the amount the FTC can return depends on many facts, including whether the FTC wins the case, how much defendants are able to pay, how much the Court orders for refunds and how many people were affected.
How long will it take to get my money back?
If there is repayment, it will happen after the case ends.
How do I add my name to the case?
You don’t need to contact the FTC to file a claim or ask for repayment. The FTC will use the defendants’ business records to identify people who bought property. You may choose to help the FTC by sending copies of information and records you have through a secure electronic link.
I want to make sure I get any compensation that is distributed. What steps do I take?
You can use a secure electronic link to provide electronic copies of information and records you have about taking tours, making a down payment, or buying land in the Sanctuary Belize developments, but you don’t need to do that immediately.
I own a lot in Sanctuary Belize. Does the FTC’s case take my lot into receivership?
No. The Court appointed a temporary receiver to take control of the development’s assets related to the case. The Receiver has control of unsold lots and areas of the development that do not belong to individual people. Your lot is not part of the receivership.
I lost my lot because I stopped making payments. Could I still receive any compensation that the FTC distributes?
I’m concerned someone else might have a claim to a lot I thought I owned. What should I do?
There probably is not anything you can or should do right now, but if you want to be certain, contact an attorney.
I own a lot in a different development in Belize that might be related to this case. Will the FTC’s case cover my lot?
The FTC knows about other developments in Belize that are associated with the defendants in this case, or related to Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve. The FTC is evaluating lot sales in these developments.
What is the Receiver?
The Receiver is a person appointed by the Court to locate and manage assets that belong to the defendants and the businesses and people that work for the defendants. These assets are known as “receivership assets.” If the FTC wins the case, and if the Court approves, the Receiver will turn over those assets to the FTC. Then, FTC will return those assets to consumers who purchased lots in Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve.
Does the Receiver report to someone?
Yes. The Receiver reports to a federal judge, usually by sending written reports that are public.
How does the Receiver get paid?
Usually, the Court pays the Receiver from money collected from the defendants. Only the judge can approve the Receiver’s compensation.
Will the Receiver sell my interest in the development?
The Receiver does not control, and therefore, cannot sell the interests of individual owners. The Receiver has control of unsold lots and areas of the development that do not belong to individual people. Your lot is not part of the receivership.
Is the FTC the same as the Receiver?
No. The Federal Trade Commission is a law enforcement agency led by commissioners nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Receiver is a person appointed by a federal judge to locate and manage assets.
Can the FTC tell the Receiver what to do?
No. The Receiver and the FTC are independent of each other. The FTC cannot tell the Receiver what to do, and the Receiver cannot tell the FTC what to do.
Someone said he talked to the Receiver, and was going to share more information from the Receiver. Is this true?
Probably not. If you want to be sure you have accurate information about the Receiver, ask the Receiver. You can contact the Court-appointed Receiver by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The developer’s representatives told me things about the development that were important to my decision to purchase, but my lot sale agreement does not mention these things. Does that matter?
No, at least not in the FTC’s case. Those differences aren’t part of the FTC’s case. The FTC’s case focuses on unlawful misrepresentations the defendants made during the sales process.
Does progress made on the development over the past year or two make any difference in the FTC’s case?
No. The developer must keep all of its material promises to all consumers, not some promises to some consumers.
Will the FTC visit the development?
No. Due to attention associated with this matter, there is no safe way for FTC representatives to visit Belize.
How does the FTC know the status of the development?
The FTC gets information about the development from many sources, including people who have visited the development recently. The FTC also has access to maps, plans, designs, photographs, contracts, approvals, and other records that show the development’s status. The FTC has not visited the development because of safety concerns specific to FTC personnel.
What will happen to the pool, bar, restaurant, and other amenities at Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve while the FTC’s case moves forward?
During the case, the Court-appointed Receiver will decide how to manage the development, including the amenities. The Court-appointed Receiver can operate amenities, but only if they can be operated legally and profitably.
Someone asked me to donate money to a new property owners association. Is that okay?
Yes, you may donate, but you aren’t required to. It’s up to you. If anyone pressures you to make a donation, or you feel you are being misled, please contact the FTC.
What are the FTC’s allegations against the Property Owners Association?
The FTC alleges that the Property Owners Association was not separate from the defendants and that the defendants used it for their own purposes.
In 2014, the defendants (including Andris Pukke and Luke Chadwick) decided to dissolve an earlier property owners’ association. The defendants later created a new association with defendant John Usher as one of its Directors. It used different names and had some different representatives than the earlier association, but the defendants always controlled the property owners’ association and always used it for their own purposes.
Recently, the defendants told owners to send dues payments to a location in Texas. However, the money the owners sent to Texas was forwarded to an account in California that the defendants controlled.
Who is in charge of the Property Owners Association?
“The Reserve Property Owners Association” is a trade name registered to the Sanctuary Belize Property Owners Association. It is an entity the defendants created, and its leadership includes defendant John Usher as a Director.
A federal judge placed the Sanctuary Belize Property Owners Association, which did business as “The Reserve Property Owners Association,” under the control of the Court-appointed Receiver.
The FTC knows of at least four other associations that include or used to include people who bought lots in Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve. The Court-appointed Receiver does not control those associations.
What will happen to the property owner’s association?
If the FTC wins the case, the Court and Court-appointed Receiver may restructure the property owners’ association so that, in the future, it operates in an independent manner.
If the defendants win the case, the defendants will determine what happens to the development and the property owners’ association.
I heard that if I donate money to a different property owners’ association, my donation may be credited against money I may owe for my lot, or to the property owners association that the defendants formed. Is this true?
If the defendants win the case, it’s possible they could choose to voluntarily reduce the amounts consumers owe based on donations consumers made to other organizations. Those actions would be up to the defendants.
If the FTC wins the case, it is too early to tell if people would owe additional payments at all, and if they did, what those additional payments would be. However, if people owed additional payments, the FTC would probably oppose reducing those payments by amounts people voluntarily paid to organizations the Receiver does not control.
I heard people say they talked to the FTC and would give us information from the FTC. Is this true?
No. Only the Commission and its employees speak for the FTC. If you hear people say they will pass along information from the FTC, please contact the FTC.
How do I contact the FTC?
I have documents and other paperwork related to Sanctuary Belize. What can I do with it?
Please keep your original documents.
The FTC is interested in copies of email, promotional material, sales documents, audio and video recordings you have that are related to tours, promotions, payments, sales, construction or in any way to your contact with the real estate developments in Belize listed below.
You can send electronic copies of information about your interaction with the following entities to the FTC through a secure electronic link.
- The Reserve
- Sanctuary Belize
- Sanctuary Bay
- Global Property Alliance
- Buy Belize
- Buy Paradise
- Buy International
- Eco Futures
- Sittee River Wildlife Reserve
Where will you store my contact information and documents?
We use data encryption and secure data access to protect your sensitive information and to control access to it.
What happens after I send documents through the secure link?
We will send you an email that says we got your information.
How will the FTC use the information I send?
The FTC may use the information you provide to support its case against the defendants that run or help Sanctuary Belize. We may contact you to ask for more information. Because we may use the information you provide to help our case against the defendants, court rules may require us to give copies of what you send us to the defendants, so that they can respond.