The only thing worse than actually investing in the Facebook IPO is probably thinking you'd invested in the NASDAQ stinker, when in fact the cash was stolen from you as part of an international scam. Let's take a trip to New Jersey.
Eliyahu Weinstein, Alex Schleider, and Aaron Muschel were all arrested yesterday, after Feds fingered them in the multi-million dollar bilking of an eager New Zealand investor—he'd been promised a cherry deal on some pre-IPO Facebook stock. Stock that didn't exist:
“According to the charges, the defendants took advantage of the buzz around the Facebook IPO to fleece unsuspecting investors,” said U.S. Attorney [Paul] Fishman. “Shamelessly, Eliyahu Weinstein allegedly committed these crimes while under federal indictment for another investment scheme, even using stolen money to pay his legal fees. Today’s arrest should put an end to his brazen conduct.”
Brazen indeed—the trio repeatedly suckered the kiwi and then poured his wired money into a Brooklyn synagogue, which had asked for a loan to help bankroll a shady $350 million life insurance plan it hoped to profit from on the deaths of its congregation. The entire thing reads like a sad mix of The Social Network and a Guy Ritchie film, and includes email gems from the defendants to their victim like this:
BTW I presume you have satisfied your appetites for a while however since the IPO/S 1 filing announcement last week it has gone viral they are now offering $44 a share ... a large block of shares has been offered to Eli @ $32.50 from the same source which is $2.50 more than we previously paid. He has a buyer that is willing to come in @ $42.50 with a non-refundable. deposit making it a great opportunity. Eli is putting together $16.250 MM to buy 500k shares and selling it for a $9 profit per share. It is a 2 week turnaround.
That's how easy it is to (allegedly) perpetrate wire fraud, guys. Just tell a sucker that $FB is going "viral," which must mean something else in New Zealand.
Until someone starts to suspect they're being screwed, and you're hit with some tough questions:
Defendant WEINSTEIN: All of [the Facebook transactions] are done. Completed. Completed. Completed.
Victim J.C.: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
Victim G.C.: Facebook one is not completed.
Victim J.C.: This one's not completed.
Defendant WEINSTEIN: I didn't say completed.
Victim J.C.: We thought it went into Belle Glade. See, it was supposed to ...
Victim G.C.: We were told it went into Belle Glade?
Victim J.C.: We were told it went into Belle Glade, and then we found it didn't. Defendant WEINSTEIN: There· is no Belle Glade. Belle Glade never was purchased. So the money.
Victim G.C.: But no, the money that we, the money that we sent down for it the $2.83 went to 148. The other.
Defendant WEINSTEIN: You never bought Belle Glade.
Fake stock transactions and fake property investments. But the fun is over: the District Attorney's Office says "the government is seeking the seizure and forfeiture of all funds fraudulently obtained by the defendants, including three pieces of real property allegedly maintained with the proceeds of the scheme." This will be a very lame, complicated bit of crime to explain in prison if the three are found guilty.
You can read the entire USDOJ complaint below. [via BW]