Ponzi schemer freed by Trump charged with new Ponzi scheme

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A Ponzi scheme operator whose prison sentence was commuted by former US President Donald Trump has been charged with a similar fraud.

Eli Weinstein, 48, was among 143 people whose convictions were either fully pardoned or commuted in Mr Trump’s final hours in office.

But less than a year after release, Mr Weinstein allegedly launched a scheme to defraud at least 150 investors.

Federal prosecutors said on Wednesday he “picked up right where he left off”.

Mr Weinstein, of Lakewood, New Jersey, has previously pleaded guilty to two separate investment fraud schemes – in 2013, to a real estate Ponzi scheme, and in 2015, to wire fraud while on trial for the Ponzi scheme.

His crimes resulted in combined losses of more than $224m (£174m) to victims.

By Mr Trump’s final year in office, he was eight years into a 24-year prison sentence.

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Those close to the then-president petitioned for his release, arguing that Mr Weinstein had not received a fair trial.

The team included lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who represented Mr Trump at his first impeachment, and lobbyist Nick Muzin, a long-time ally of Mr Trump’s chief of staff.

On his last full day in office, Mr Trump reduced Mr Weinstein’s sentence to time served and he was released the same day. The White House described him as a “father of seven children and a loving husband”.

But according to court papers unsealed in a New Jersey federal court on Wednesday, Mr Weinstein orchestrated a new Ponzi scheme to steal $35m (£27m).

Using the fake name “Mike Konig” to hide his criminal past, he and four accomplices created bogus investment funds.

They told prospective investors their money would be used for “lucrative deals involving, among other things, Covid-19 masks, scarce baby formula, and first-aid kits bound for Ukraine”.

“These were brazen and sophisticated crimes that involved multiple conspirators and drew right from Weinstein’s playbook of fraud,” Philip Sellinger, the US Attorney for New Jersey said on Wednesday.

Mr Weinstein and his co-conspirators face up to 25 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also filed a civil complaint against him and five others for his actions.

Related Topics

  • Donald Trump
  • Fraud
  • United States

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