Shamika Luciano, associate to Ponzi scammer Nicholas Cosmo, pleads guilty

Defendant Shamika Luciano leaves Federal Court Friday, Jan.

Defendant Shamika Luciano leaves Federal Court Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, where a hearing took place for five individuals charged with several counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud stemming from the Cosmos ponzi scheme. (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

A close associate of Ponzi confidence man Nicholas Cosmo pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip Friday in a case growing out of his $400 million fraud scheme, officials said.

Shamika Luciano of Coram pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, the officials said. Luciano was Cosmo's executive assistant in his Hauppauge-based operation and she made $275,000 in the scheme, federal prosecutors have said.

In a bail letter filed when Luciano was arrested in December, federal prosecutors said that Luciano had been Cosmo's girlfriend at the time of the scheme.

Luciano's attorney, Matthew Kluger of the Bronx, said in a statement after the plea: "Today Shamika Luciano accepted full responsibility for her unlawful actions while she was an employee at Agape World Inc. from August 2007 until January 2009. She is profoundly sorry and apologizes to the many victims of this terrible crime."

Eastern District federal prosecutor Christopher Caffarone declined to comment after the plea.

The scheme of Cosmo, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence, took in more than $400 million from 5,000 investors during its operation from 2003 to 2009. He promised investors, most of whom were blue collar, returns of up to 80 percent.

In the end, 4,100 of the investors lost a total of $179 million, officials said. Most of the money Cosmo took in went to pay early investors, as is typical in a Ponzi scheme, to pay the employees working with him in the fraud, or to losses in commodities trading.

A bankruptcy expert hired to recover money has estimated that at most victims will get back 10 cents on the dollar.

Luciano faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley.

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