The rise and fall of Miami's South American tech guru

Alberto Chang goes from Google star to Stanford fraud


MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – At the pinnacle of his success as a venture capitalist, Alberto Chang was a property owner at Moskito Island. He was a "Chilean virgin galactic future astronaut." His Grupo Arcano had offices in Miami Beach, Santiago de Chile, London and Sydney. And he ran an established foundation based out of Switzerland. 

The Alberto Chang Foundation's website said he made his fortune through profitable investments in the private sector. His Grupo Arcano biography said he earned post-graduate degrees in business administration and behavioral sciences from Stanford University. 

Chang later admitted to having blown up his educational background. The foundation's site showed pictures of students he claimed to have helped with scholarships. And now some of those students complained to Chilean newspaper La Tercera. That was a lie too, they said. 

"I never got any money from him," Freddy Valera, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, said. "They put me there, as if I knew them and I have never talked to him or his foundation."


In Miami federal court, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claimed they have evidence that Chang was lying to the investors who trusted him. Chang is already a fugitive in Chile, where he is wanted for fraud, money laundering and banking law violations. And while the SEC asked for access to his banking records, Chang asked a judge to protect his privacy. 


When Chang left Chile on March 12, he was well regarded in Miami, where he was known as a visionary. 




Former employees of Grupo Arcano and Onix Capital said a bomb dropped on March 27 when Chilean newspaper El Mercurio published "The inaccuracies of Alberto Chang." There were no records to support his master's of business administration from Stanford or his alleged $10,000 seed investment in Google in the late 1990s, the report said.


"In regards to the reporting doubting my attendance as a student at the University of Stanford, I can confirm that I studied at the institution, but I did not pass the test for the degree," Chang said in a March 28 letter in Spanish. He was trying to appease employees. 


A few days later, The Miami New Times followed with "Miami tech guru under fire after Stanford University says it has never heard of him." The Miami site linked to a video of Chang's speech at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas in 2014. 


"I don't know where is my Stanford diploma," Chang said during his  presentation.  


In Miami, Chang cemented his position as a provider of start-up funding. As a member of Virgin Galactic Unite, he became a board member of Endeavor Miami, a nonprofit with worldwide operations. He also became a sponsor at eMerge Americas, a technology conference in Miami. He resigned from Endeavor Miami in March, and eMerge Americas dropped him in April.


Prosecutors arrested his mother, Veronica Rajii, and later charged her with fraud and banking law violations. Authorities tracked him to Malta, a charming archipelago in the central Mediterranean. 


"We have the will to pay and we have shown that in everything we have done," Chang said during an interview with Times of Malta, a newspaper in the island where Chang applied for citizenship. 


In Miami, the accusations against Chang drowned in the long list of South American elite, who were accused of hiding dirty money though real estate cash purchases and shell company investments, according to the Miami Herald's Panama Papers investigation. But in Chile, the #CasoArcano continues to trend on the media.


Comedians in Chile were ridiculing Chang. Publishers were using cartoons of him displaying greed and false promises. Some joked that if he could have used his $250,000 ticket on a Virgin Galactic commercial suborbital spaceflight, he would have. The magazine Caras published an illustration by Vicente Marti that turned Chang into a warlock. The headline: "Las Artes del Hechicero," Spanish for "The Arts of a Warlock." 




Former Miami socialite Ariel Stein was in a romantic relationship with Chang. He said he can understand how so many wealthy and educated investors fell for his trap. Chang was eccentric, elegant and sharp, Stein said. But he overspent, lied and liked to brag, Stein said. 


"I should have done my homework," said Stein, who added that the mistake "destroyed" him. 


Chang was born in Peru. Stein said Chang told him he didn't have a solid relationship with his dad. He was "abnormally" close to his mother, Stein said. 


When he was a little boy, Chang found the body of his mom's partner after he committed suicide due to overwhelming debt, a family friend said. Chang never talked about it with Stein, whom he lived with and traveled with for close to a year. 


It was at the prestigious Saint Gabriel's School in Chile where Chang learned how to speak English with a British accent. And after earning a bachelor's degree from the Universidad Diego Portales, Chang started to do business with his friend, Rodrigo Alberto Quintanilla Contreras.


Quintanilla was involved in Chang's business with Grupo Arcano until he reportedly crashed his Mercedes Benz C180 CGI Coupe into a truck and died in San Bernardo last year. He was 42. As authorities pounced on Chang's accounts and properties and his mom was behind bars, a defeating message was sent from Chang's email account to his associates.  


"At the end of this path, I will be reunited with my friend Rodrigo, the same person with whom I have been working with for the last 15 years," the April 6 message said in Spanish. "And although it has been more than a year since he left, I still don't know how to work without him." 


His personal assistant, Maria Carolina Briones, received the email. She told law enforcement in Chile that although the message had the air of a farewell, it wasn't. She said he was being manipulative. 



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