Alberto Chang-Rajii, Miami Tech Guru Charged With Fraud, Arrested In Malta

December 12, 2016 12:54
Alberto Chang-Rajii is facing extradition to Chile as he faces fraud charges there and in Miami. YouTube

The strange saga of Alberto Chang-Rajii — the tech guru who wowed Miami with an elaborate backstory that turned out to be totally made up — took an even stranger turn earlier this year when he fled to the tiny isle of Malta as his business imploded and criminal charges were filed in his native Chile.

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission added fraud charges in Miami's federal courthouse to Chang-Rajii's growing list of woes.

Now, Chang-Rajii could be forced out of his Mediterranean hiding spot. The investor was arrested in the northern coastal town of Sliema. Chang-Rajii didn't make it easy on the Maltese cops, though.

Prosecutors on the island issued a warrant for the Chilean on Tuesday after getting a formal criminal complaint from Chile, where Chang-Rajii is accused of bilking some $100 million from investors in his Grupo Arcano business.

But first they had to find him — and Chang-Rajii was "hard to trace," police told the court. Yesterday, they finally tracked him down to an apartment in Sliema, but "it took the police hours to speak to the Chilean as he had locked himself inside," according to the Times of Malta. He was later released on bail, but ordered to remain on house arrest until an extradition hearing.

It's a stunning fall from grace for the once high-flying investor. Chang-Rajii raised millions from Miami investors with a tale of leaving Chile for Stanford University in the mid-90s, where he said he met Larry Page and Sergey Brin and became an early Google investor. He became a board member at Endeavor Miami and regularly spoke at tech conferences and universities.

But in March New Times reported that his Stanford tale was bogus, as journalists back in Chile raised questions about whether his business was legit. As Chilean investigators closed in, Chang-Rajii abruptly fled to Malta and essentially disappeared. Chilean prosecutors later charged him with running a huge Ponzi scheme.

In an SEC complaint filed last week, the feds say he stole at least $7.4 million in the U.S. as well by misrepresenting his credentials and failing to invest money in tech companies as promised. When he fled to Malta, he hid millions in overseas accounts, they say.

Maltese authorities say he tried to buy citizenship on the island through a program that encourages investors to pour money into the island, but that authorities there denied his efforts.

Chang-Rajii will now fight efforts by Chilean authorities to return him to face trial; in past interviews in Malta, he's blamed his business woes on Chile unfairly freezing his assets.

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