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Ex-Agape World exec pleads guilty to mail fraud

A former Agape company executive pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, part of the U.S. government's investigation into alleged swindler Nicholas Cosmo's $413-million Ponzi scheme.

In federal court in Central Islip, Richard Barry, 44, of Seaford, told U.S. Judge Denis Hurley that he "became aware" of "certain fraudulent activity" taking place at Agape World and Agape Merchant Advance, the Hauppauge-based investment companies founded by Cosmo.

Barry began working there in 2007 as an office manager and loan underwriter and eventually became an executive vice president.

Barry told Hurley he discovered the fraud in early 2008 when "it became clear to me the amount being loaned and the amount brought in by investors did not match."

"I continued to underwrite loans and put loans through that were considered viable investments," he said.

Barry, who is cooperating with prosecutors and remains free on $200,000 bail, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25. He faces a minimum of about 10 years in prison.

Barry declined to comment after the plea hearing. His lawyer, Lisa Annibale of Bay Shore, also declined to comment.

U.S. attorney Demetri Jones said she had no comment.

Cosmo, of Lake Grove, is accused of swindling 1,500 investors in the alleged Ponzi scheme. He faces 10 counts of mail fraud and 22 counts of wire fraud and has pleaded not guilty.

He is due back in court Sept. 24, according to prosecutors.

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