Albuquerque couple accused in $50 million fraud scheme

Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler Jacobs
Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler Jacobs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque couple that got into trouble four years ago with promises of building a Hollywood-like studio here is now accused of bigger crimes.

The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan called it an “audacious scam.” In short, invest a million dollars, and you could earn up to $150 million.

Michael Jacobs and Ruby Handler Jacobs owned Rio Grande Studios, among other businesses.

The New Mexico Attorney General at the time filed charges against the couple.

The Jacobs were accused of taking $500,000 in investors’ money to develop an entertainment district here, with a movie studio and amusement park along the river. Obviously, that never happened.

People who worked for the Jacobs at the time told KRQE News 13 the couple took their money too.

“When it came down to getting their employees their pay, well, oh, we’ll have the money soon, we’ll have the funds soon,” an employee said at the time.”

The Jacobs dodged a bullet with charges in the Rio Grande Studios case because they weren’t tried quickly enough. This time they may not be so lucky.

The U.S. Attorney said the Jacobs and four others used forged and counterfeit Federal Reserve documents to dupe investors into believing they were backed by a federal program to redevelop struggling cities.

“In reality, it was all a lie. There was no government-backed program and no plan to invest, only an alleged plan to steal the investors’ money,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney, the defendants orchestrated and executed a fraudulent high-yield investment program known as the “Cities Upliftment Program,” or CUP, which the defendants falsely told investors was operated by the New York Fed. Prosecutors allege it resulted in the theft of over $50 million from investors across the country and around the world.

Michael Jacobs was picked up Sunday at LAX. Ruby Handler Jacobs was arrested here in Albuquerque.

If convicted, the Jacobs are looking at a maximum of 100 years in federal prison.

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