Real Estate Fraud Nets Lakewood Man Prison Sentence
A man who took advantage of his Orthodox Jewish community's practice of conducting business largely on trust was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years in prison for running a real estate scam that cost investors $200 million.
Eliyahu Weinstein, 38, of Lakewood, was also ordered by a federal judge to make restitution, though the court found he was able to pay only $1,000 a month, prosecutors said. He had pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering. A second defendant remains a fugitive.
Weinstein, who also went by the names Edward and Eddie, promised investors he would make them millions of dollars by buying real estate at below-market prices and quickly reselling, or flipping, the properties.
Prosecutors said he used forged documents, including bogus deeds and mortgages, to help carry out the fraud but also exploited the Orthodox Jewish community's practice of engaging in financial transactions without substantial paperwork.
The government said the scheme began in 2004 and continued through August 2011. By 2010, prosecutors said, Weinstein had so damaged his reputation in Lakewood due to massive investor losses that he and others began seeking investors from outside his community.
Weinstein used a portion of the proceeds to make big religious and charitable donations so he could boost his standing in the Orthodox community, prosecutors said.
He also used illegal gains to acquire antique Judaica and other artwork, build a multimillion-dollar watch and jewelry collection, lease luxury cars, gamble in Las Vegas and pay off millions of dollars of credit-card and legal bills.
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