Robert Shapiro, an alleged mastermind behind a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, has agreed to pay $120 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission as part of a settlement agreement.
Shapiro, the former CEO of Woodbridge Group of Companies, and his wife, Jeri, as well as other entities named as defendants in the SEC lawsuit, will pay a combined $892 million to the commission, Bloomberg reported. The money will be used to compensate the victims of the Ponzi scheme.
The settlement comes exactly two years after the SEC first launched their investigation into the Sherman Oaks-based company and a web of more than 250 Shapiro-controlled shell companies for allegedly orchestrating a fraud.
The SEC sued Shapiro in December 2017, accusing him of misleading investors. Shapiro would promise investors high returns on their investments, specifically luxury spec homes, only to then channel their money into several different entities he controlled. He would then use new investments to pay off older ones.
He also spent at least $21 million of investor money on private jets, luxury country clubs, plus other extravagances, the SEC claims.
He resigned from his role as CEO that December, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
He did not admit nor deny the allegations.
Since the lawsuit hit, a number of Woodbridge-owned properties have come on the market for sale. The most notable was the Owlwood Estate, a 10-acre mansion in Holmby Hills once owned by Sonny Bono and Cher. The property, first listed for $180 million, dropped to $115 million in September. [Bloomberg] – Natalie Hoberman