Once a real estate mogul, Aaron Ziegelman now solicits donations

It’s a different kind of real estate fund. The New York Times reported that onetime real estate mogul Aaron Ziegelman has solicited nearly $1 million in donations through a hand-written letter to people in the real estate industry, philanthropists, even parents of children who attend the Jewish-affiliated Camp JRF in the Poconos to which he donated $1 million, asking for some serious help.

“I’m faced with creditors who are trying to take away my home,” Ziegelman wrote. “I need your financial help to save my home and to clean up the mess so I can start making a living.”

Though some have helped —  Saul Zabar, president of the Upper West Side supermarket Zabar’s and developer George Klein — others allege that Ziegelman is a con man who has previously been involved in Ponzi schemes. Ziegelman’s business partner, investors, a cousin and former friends say in lawsuits all filed last year that he owes them millions of dollars.

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But Ziegelman told the Times that he’s settling most of the cases and that there were no criminal investigations into his finances and no court decisions against him.

Ziegelman made his fortune through converting a group of rental apartments in 120 rental buildings around the city into condominiums or co-ops. His calls for help mark a stark contrast between the days when he was reportedly transported between his buildings in a Jaguar driven by a chauffeur and held fabulous parties at Tavern on the Green and the Rainbow Room. [NYT]