The New York Daily News bY SARAH ARMAGHAN AND DAVE GOLDINER - January 29, 2009
Ponzi scheme con man Nicholas Cosmo may be freed on bail soon but he'll have to come up with more cash first, a judge ruled Thursday. The judge declared Cosmo, dubbed "Little Bernie Madoff," is not a flight risk, even as he rejected a defense proposal for $750,000 in bond and sent him back to jail. "Bail must be substantial," said Federal Judge E. Thomas Boyle, who also suggested Cosmo be placed under intense surveillance. The judge set a hearing for next week to set bail conditions for Cosmo in the $350 million fraud case. Cosmo, 37, squirmed nervously in an orange prison jumpsuit throughout the hearing, then sat still as the judge rejected his lawyer's bail proposal. Boyle judge revealed that prosecutors are investigating whether Cosmo tried to wire cash from his doomed Agape World investment company to relatives as the firm imploded.
His brother and other relatives offered to put up their houses to secure his release, but prosecutors say they may have little equity in them. Prosecutors say Cosmo bilked 1,500 mostly middle-class investors out of millions with promises of 4% a month in returns on loans to companies. He blew millions on bad commodity bets and paid middlemen brokers $50 million more. Investigators still don't know what happened to more than half the $350 million regular folks poured into Agape over the last couple of years. Cosmo's victims filled the Long Island courtroom and told wrenching stories of vanished nest eggs and deferred dreams. NYPD cop Frank Ingrao said he invested his entire $63,000 life savings in Agape to take advantage of what seemed like an extraordinary business opportunity. The Iraq war vet was planning to buy a home. Now he's broke. "I'm turning 28 next week," said Ingrao, of Williston Park, L.I. "I wanted to start my life." John Jay College student Norma Mendoza planned to pay for graduate school with the $20,000 she invested. "I don't know what the future holds," said Mendoza, 24, of Queens.