by Brian Mahany
Readers of this blog know that we frequently report on religious affinity fraud. Catholics, the Black faith community, and even the Amish have seen multimillion dollar Ponzi schemes and frauds this year. Orthodox Jews are unfortunately no exception. According to a recent press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the feds have indicted Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein on 45 counts of wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.
In an unusual display of chutzpah, prosecutors say two of the counts of wire fraud were committed by Weinstein while on bail!
Prosecutors say that Weinstein targeted investors in the New Jersey Orthodox Jewish community. He told investors that he was a successful real estate investor. Instead of buying real estate, however, Weinstein used doctored and forged documents to show that he owned real estate that wasn’t his. In one instance, his doctored documents showed property in a town that didn’t even exist.
Where did the money go? According to the indictment it was spent on Weinstein’s extravagant lifestyle including sports cars, jewelry and gambling trips. His credit card bills alone were reported to be in the millions of dollars. He also donated stolen money to religious charities to further his standing and successful reputation in the Jewish community.
As is common in all Ponzi schemes, some money was also used to pay off early investors. Fraudsters often make sure that some investors have received back their money to add legitimacy to the investment.
The FBI says Weinstein’s total haul was approximately $200 million. If convicted he could face hundreds of years in prison.
Religious affinity frauds exploit the trust that exists in tightly knit communities. The orthodox Jewish community was particularly susceptible to such a fraud because of their practice of dealing with one another on a handshake. Even a written contract would not have prevented their losses in all probability, however.
As in any investment decision, never invest solely on the basis of a recommendation of a trusted elder or member of your church. Often the person vouching for the investment may have been fooled themselves. Always check out every detail.
Getting back money from a Ponzi scheme is difficult. A bit of upfront due diligence can save much heartache later. Depending on who sold you the bogus investment, you may be able to recover from them as well. Financial professionals such as investment advisers, financial planners and insurance agents have an increased due diligence obligation before recommending or selling a particular investment.
The asset recovery and fraud lawyers at Mahany & Ertl, LLC have helped many people get back their hard earned money. Investment scams, legal malpractice, stock fraud and phony tax shelters are types of frauds we have handled. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at (direct) or by email at
Mahany & Ertl, LLC – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Wisconsin, Michigan & Maine. Services in most jurisdictions.