UPDATED, April 15, 7:32 p.m.: The Bayrock Group, co-developer of the Trump Soho in Manhattan, may be connected to former basketball star Tate George’s real estate fraud scheme, court records show.
The connection adds to Bayrock’s strange list of scandals, which includes alleged mob tactics, executives who worked as FBI informants, and alleged fraud at Trump Soho.The latest allegations center on Michael Chu’di Ejekam, a Wharton graduate who worked for Bayrock in 2005 and 2006, according to court filings. In those years, Ejekam partnered with Tate George on at least two residential real estate developments – one in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and one in Chicago.
“Chudi Ejekam was, at all relevant times a contractor of Bayrock and never served as an employee at the firm. Bayrock had no role or participation in any of the reported residential real estate deals facilitated by Mr. Ejekam,” a spokesperson for Bayrock wrote in a statement.
George, a former basketball star at the University of Connecticut and the New Jersey Nets who became a developer, was convicted of defrauding several investors between 2005 and 2011. In January, a federal jury sentenced him to nine years in prison.
Two of his victims testified that they invested in a small-scale Chicago residential project George was working on with Ejekam in 2006. One of the victims, an engineer named Ralph Ramsey, said Ejekam’s connection to Trump gave them confidence in the investment. “From what I recollect, Tate said that Chudi worked for a company named Bay Rock and that was connected with Donald Trump, and he essentially facilitated a lot of the investment opportunities connected with Trump,” Ramsey said in a court testimony, recalling his first meeting with George and Ejekam.
The Chicago development never got off the ground, and prosecutors later proved that George spent his investors’ money on himself instead. George would accuse Ejekam of having pocketed a share of the money. Ejekam wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing related to his connection to George.
Ejekam subsequently left Bayrock and no longer appears to live in the U.S. According to his Linkedin profile, he has been working at private equity firm Actis as real estate head for West Africa based in Nigeria since 2008.
After leaving Bayrock, Ejekam was named as a co-plaintiff in Jody Kriss’ lawsuit against the firm. The former CFO accused Bayrock of fraud and of concealing executive Felix Sater’s criminal past. In return, Bayrock advisor Salvatore Lauria filed a lawsuit against Kriss, accusing him of employing mob tactics and intimidation. Bayrock, along with the Trump Organization and the Sapir Organization, was also the subject of a criminal investigation over the Trump Soho condo development. That investigation was dropped by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Bayrock could not immediately be reached for comment. Ejekam did not respond to a request for comment.