Last defendants in $1B real estate Ponzi scheme plead guilty
Robert Shapiro-led scheme preyed on thousands of property investors
Over five years, beginning in 2012, Sherman Oaks-based luxury real estate developer Robert Shapiro orchestrated a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 7,000 property investors — many of them elderly — out of $1.3 billion.
On Monday, the Department of Justice announced that the last two defendants related to the scheme’s subsequent criminal case, Ivan Acevedo and Dane Roseman, pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud conspiracy.
Both men were based in Los Angeles and served as directors of investment at Shapiro’s Woodbridge Group of Companies, which also operated in South Florida and elsewhere. Acevedo, 44, began working at Woodbridge as a sales agent around 2009, according to a Justice Dept. statement, and became sales manager in 2014. Roseman, 38, began as a sales agent in 2012 and served as sales manager between 2015 and 2017.
As sales managers, according to the release, the two men used “high-pressure sales tactics” to deceive and manipulate potential investors, who were falsely led to believe the investments were “low-risk, safe, simple and conservative.” They also misrepresented the investments to financial planners.
The firm persuaded at least 2,600 investors to fork over $400 million in their retirement savings, the report said. Shapiro, who secretly created a network of more than 270 limited liability companies to facilitate the fraud, pocketed between $25 million and $95 million of that money for himself and his immediate family. Acevedo received approximately $1.1 million through the scheme, and Roseman received approximately $2.5 million. Yet neither man actually had access to the company’s finances or “direct knowledge that Shapiro was operating a Ponzi scheme,” according to the DOJ.
Both men are scheduled to be sentenced in September in Miami, where the federal case was filed. Woodbridge had previously been headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. The Ponzi scheme, among the largest in real estate history, collapsed in 2017 when most Woodbridge companies filed for bankruptcy and investors were forced to take significant losses.
Many of Shapiro’s and Woodbridge’s pricey residential properties in Los Angeles and at least one in Palm Beach, Florida, have been sold off in the past couple of years to help pay back investors.
After an extensive federal investigation, the government filed charges against 13 individuals and 10 companies over the scheme; Shapiro pleaded guilty to fraud charges in August 2019 and was subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.