Convicted Ponzi Schemer Eliyahu Weinstein Sentenced to Additional 24 Months in Prison on New Fraud and Money Laundering Charges
TRENTON, NJ—A man already serving 22 years in prison for a real estate Ponzi scheme was sentenced today to an additional 24 months in prison for defrauding investors in connection with the Facebook IPO and several additional real estate deals and laundering the proceeds of the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Eliyahu Weinstein, 39, of Lakewood, New Jersey, was previously sentenced to 22 years in prison for running a real estate investment fraud scheme that caused $200 million in losses. Today, U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Weinstein to 135 months in prison, 111 months of which will be served concurrently with his previous sentence and 24 months to be served consecutively. His total sentence for the two schemes is 24 years in prison. Weinstein previously pleaded guilty before Judge Pisano to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of committing wire fraud while on pretrial release, and one count of money laundering.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In February 2012, Weinstein and his fellow conspirators offered a pair of investors (referred to in the indictment as the “Facebook victims”) the opportunity to purchase large blocks of Facebook shares prior to the company’s initial public offering, or IPO, in May 2012. The offer was particularly attractive because large blocks of the shares were extremely difficult to get and were expected to increase in value at the time of the IPO. Weinstein and his conspirators did not actually have access to the shares.
Based on misrepresentations by Weinstein and his conspirators, the Facebook victims wired millions of dollars between February and March of 2012 to an account that Weinstein and a conspirator controlled. Weinstein and another conspirator provided investors with false documents showing companies owned by various conspirators held assets, which would secure the Facebook victims’ investment.
The conspirators did not use any of the Facebook victims’ money to purchase Facebook shares, instead misappropriating it for their own use. Weinstein used some of the money to pay lawyers and experts representing him in his earlier—and at that time, still pending—criminal case and in related civil matters. Weinstein and his conspirators also used the Facebook victims’ money to make investments in businesses unrelated to Facebook and to make loans for their own benefit.
Around the same time, Weinstein and his conspirators also persuaded the Facebook victims to invest in the purported purchase of an apartment complex, “Belle Glade Gardens,” in Florida. They told the Facebook victims that Weinstein had the opportunity to purchase Belle Glade Gardens at a discounted price and immediately flip it at a substantial profit. Weinstein and his conspirators further told the Facebook victims that Weinstein had already placed $2.5 million in the trust account of a Miami law firm for the transaction; that if the Facebook victims contributed another $2.5 million toward the transaction, those funds would remain in escrow at the Miami law firm until the deal closed; and that the Facebook victims would be repaid within 60 days. The Facebook victims wired $2.83 million to the Miami law firm in order to complete the Belle Glades Gardens transaction. Weinstein and his conspirators did not use the money to purchase Belle Glades Gardens. Instead, they redirected the money from the law firm to accounts that they controlled, returned $1.8 million to the Facebook victims as a purported return on their Facebook investment, and used the remaining money for their own purposes.
In July 2012, Weinstein approached another group of investor victims (referred to in the indictment as the “Florida condominium victims”) and told them he had the opportunity to purchase the notes on seven condominiums in Florida at a discounted price of $3 million. Weinstein and his conspirators falsely represented that they had already paid $1.5 million toward the deal, and that they needed only $1.5 million to complete the transaction. They claimed that the properties had an annual rental income of approximately $780,000 and provided to the Florida condominium victims fraudulent documentation purporting to verify this fact. The victims transferred $1.5 million to Weinstein and his conspirators between August 2012 and December 2012. Weinstein did not use this money to purchase the notes on the Florida condominiums—many of which he himself had previously owned and lost to foreclosure. Instead, Weinstein and his conspirators converted the money to their own use.
Throughout the scheme, Weinstein was already under indictment and on pretrial release, and was prohibited from engaging in any monetary transaction for more than $1,000 without the approval of court-appointed special counsel. Weinstein pleaded guilty on Jan. 3, 2013, before Judge Pisano to two counts of that indictment, admitting he ran a Ponzi-style real estate investment fraud scheme that caused $200 million in losses and then laundered the proceeds of the scheme. Judge Pisano sentenced Weinstein on Feb. 25, 2014, to 264 months in prison and ordered him to pay more than $200 million in restitution and forfeiture to the victims of his scheme.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Pisano today ordered Weinstein to pay $6.2 million restitution and forfeiture.
Two co-defendants, Alex Schleider, 49, of Lakewood, and Aaron Glucksman, 41, of Brooklyn, New York, have already pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme. On Dec.8, 2014, Judge Pisano sentenced Schleider to serve 52 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay restitution of $613,200 and forfeiture of $363,200. Judge Pisano sentenced Glucksman on May 5, 2014, to 52 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered him to forfeit $1.2 million. Judge Pisano ordered Glucksman’s sentence to run partially concurrently with a 36-month sentence recently imposed by U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York in an unrelated case.
Charges against another conspirator, Aaron Muschel, 64, of Brooklyn, NY, who was charged in the criminal complaint filed against Weinstein and Schleider in May 2013, remain pending. The charges against him are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Aaron T. Ford in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, for their role in the investigation.
The government is represented by Counsel to the U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig; Gurbir S. Grewal, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zach Intrater of the Economic Crimes Unit; and Evan S. Weitz of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorney’s offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.