Lakewood Investment Scammer Faces Up to 25 Years; Co-Defendant On The Lam
Four days before the start of his federal trial, Eliyahu Weinstein of Lakewood has admitted running a $200,000,000 real-estate investment scam and laundering the money.
In U.S. District Court Judge Joel A. Pisano's courtroom in Trenton, the 37-year-old also known as Eli Weinstein, Eddie Weinstein and Edward Weinstein pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of money laundering.
His plea bargain leaves him at risk for up to 25 years in prison at his scheduled April 2 sentencing. He'll also be required to serve three years supervised release, submit an accounting of all money accrued in the scam, pay restitution to victims, and give up seized property valued at $2,000,000.
Weinstein's co-defendant, Vladimir Siforov, remains a fugitive from three counts of wire fraud, according to information from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman's office.
Prosecutors contend that Weinstein initially targeted members of the Orthodox Jewish community to which he belonged, using his knowledge of customs and traditions to enhance his credibility in what legal experts call affinity fraud.
According to investigators, Weinstein took advantage of the Orthodox practice of trust-based transactions, convincing investors that they money was being rolled over into new ventures. He spread beyond the Orthodox circle, authorities contend, in April 2010 when mounting losses sank his reputation.
Investigators say that from June 2004 until August 2011, Weinstein and Siforov orchestrated the scheme by convincing investors that they'd be buying low and selling high - buying properties below market rates and flipping them, with the money held in escrow until closing, and reinforcing the facade with bogus mortgages, deeds and checks.
Prosecutors say that the money was also spent on Judaic relics and art, jewelry and watches, luxury car leases, gambling trips and millions of dollars in credit card and legal payments.