A New York investor poured $500,000 into an entity managed by a group of real estate developers who were raising $13 million to buy a property in Queens.
But those funds were used by the group — whose members misrepresented their experience in the real estate industry — to buy the property for themselves, cutting the investor out of the deal, alleges a new lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
James Choi alleges that the defendants, Antonio Wong, Yan Fok, Ming Yi Cheung, attorney Jay Lau and a variety of companies connected to those individuals, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for creating “an enterprise existing for the purpose of committing such racketeering and fraudulent actions against numerous victims,” the complaint states. And the plaintiffs want $1.5 million in damages.
Choi, Fok and Cheung couldn’t be reached for comment. Choi’s attorney, Lau and Wong didn’t return requests for comment.
Wong, who owns WRE Consultancy or Wong Real Estate Consultancy and who was acting as the agent for the other defendants, allegedly offered Choi the opportunity to invest in the purchase of 37-05 Parson Boulevard in Flushing, the complaint states. The property would need $13 million total in investments to be flipped for a $10 million profit. The alternative was to develop the property into a condominium, with a possible profit of $36.8 million, the complaint states.
Wong allegedly made several representations to Choi that led Choi and others to send $500,000 to an entity called 37 Parsons Capital Advisors LLC, which was supposed to eventually own Queens building, according to the complaint.
Wong allegedly said he and his associates were real estate developers and investors and that Wong had already secured a bridge financing commitment for the property. Another entity, My Capital Investment LLC, was allegedly already in contract to buy the Queens building, and the investors would buy the 99.9 percent membership interests of that entity.
Wong also showed Choi an overview of Wong’s firm’s real estate investment portfolio, which purportedly showed his firm’s involvement in the development of numerous properties including 88 Leonard Street, the complaint states.
But this involvement appears not to be true, according to the plaintiff: “Upon information and belief, none of the defendants ever materially participated in any portion or filled any role in the development of the portfolio projects.”
The entity 37 Parsons Capital — where Choi sent his money to — went on to acquire the controlling interests of My Capital Investment LLC. But My Capital Investment never bought the Queens building as promised — an entirely separate entity did, according to the complaint.
At some point, Lau — the attorney handling the deal — sent the building’s true owner’s operating agreement to Choi’s counsel, who found out that two of the members were also part of 37 Parsons Capital, and “owed the plaintiffs the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care,” the complaint states.
The plaintiff hasn’t heard from the defendants since, according to the case.
There have been several other legal issues involving Wong.
In a case also mentioned in Choi’s complaint, Wong signed a $5 million confession of judgement after Great Wall Realty Corp. in 2013 alleged that Wong and others fraudulently obtained loans for properties that they did not own.
Another referenced lawsuit describes an alleged situation in which Wong and other associates solicited the plaintiffs’ funds on the pretense of investing in Queens real estate — which allegedly didn’t happen — and refusing to return the monies, that complaint states. A co-defendant in that case, Jimmy Li, denied the allegations, but the case remains active.