TRENTON, N.J. (1010 WINS/AP) — A man who federal prosecutors say operated a real estate investment scheme that defrauded investors of at least $200 million was arrested Thursday morning at his Lakewood home on charges of bank fraud and wire fraud.
A federal judge in Newark ordered Eliyahu Weinstein detained pending a bail hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Weinstein’s attorney, Ephraim Savitt, had sought his client’s release, maintaining his innocence and disputing claims he was a flight risk.
Savitt said the charges against Weinstein rose from disgruntled former partners who are already suing him over investment losses. He said his client’s family and friends would be ready to post whatever assets they have to help him get freed on bail.
Prosecutors said Weinstein never owned many properties he claimed were his. The 35-year-old man also falsified checks and lease agreements and even sold the same bogus property multiple times, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports.
He played off his connections to his own Orthodox Jewish community, exploiting its customs and business practices to bilk victims, they said.
Authorities seized several items from Weinstein’s home and business offices on Thursday morning, but further details were not disclosed.
“Weinstein is charged with offering an array of lucrative investment opportunities that served the single purpose of fattening his wallet,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement. “It is always offensive when someone steals from others to finance his own luxurious lifestyle, but it is especially galling to exploit a community with whom one shares an inherent trust.”
Weinstein faces several civil lawsuits filed by many of his alleged victims, Sandberg reports. Just last week, a federal judge in Pennsylvania issued a $34 million judgment against Weinstein and some associates.
Also named in the federal complaint is Vladimir Sifovrov, of Manalapan, who’s charged with wire fraud. He remained at large Thursday.
During the court hearing, assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Coyne asked Judge Esther Salas to detain Weinstein, noting that he faces 50 years in prison if convicted on both charges. He called Weinstein a flight risk, citing his frequent trips to Israel, Poland and Ukraine, and said “the weight of evidence against him is nothing short of overwhelming.”
Savitt cited his client’s local ties in disputing the flight risk allegations.
“His only home is in New Jersey with his wife and his six very young children,” Savitt told the judge.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)