Birmingham Business Owner Sentenced for Wire Fraud in Connection with a $23 Million Scheme to Defraud Local Real Estate Investors
DETROIT - Viktor Gjonaj, 44, a Troy based commercial real estate broker and investor was sentenced today to 53 months in prison after having pleaded guilty to devising and executing a scheme to obtain money by means of false material promises and representations from victim-investors, Acting U.S. Attorney Saima S. Mohsin announced.
Mohsin was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Timothy T. Waters, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Imposing the sentence was Honorable Linda Parker, United States District Judge.
According to court records, Gjonaj admitted that in June 2016, he thought he had discovered a guaranteed way to win huge jackpots in the Michigan Lottery Dailey 3 and 4 games. To accomplish this, he had to substantially increase the times he played and amounts he spent. In 2017, Gjonaj began losing more money than he won and more money than he could afford to lose. Rather than ending his gambling, Gjonaj devised a scheme to trick individuals into giving him money by falsely promising them he would invest it in lucrative real estate deals. To make the deals look legitimate, Gjonaj created a fake title company and instructed the victim-investors to wire transfer money into the bank account of the fake company. Gjonaj described the fraudulent real estate deals in great detail and encouraged victim-investors to continue giving him money by disbursing payments to them which he falsely claimed were profits on their “investment.” By early 2019, Gjonaj was betting over $1 million a week on Michigan Lottery games using money fraudulently obtained from victims. In August 2019, Gjonaj’s scheme to defraud unraveled resulting in over $23 million in losses to victims.
Following his release from prison, Gjonaj will serve a three-year term of supervised release and the Court also ordered Gjonaj to make restitution to his victims in the amount of $25,299,120.00 and to forfeit $ $19,025,000.
“White collar criminals may use sophisticated methods and apparently legitimate businesses, but their crimes amount to nothing more than stealing other people’s money. Gjonaj used his previous business successes and relationships with victim-investors to lure them into his scheme, to convince them his false promises were true, and to steal their money,” said Acting United States Attorney Saima S. Mohsin.
"In just over two years, Viktor Gjonaj stole more than $23 million from his victims with promises of lucrative real estate deals," said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. "Gjonaj violated the trust his victims placed in him and left many financially devastated. Today's sentence provides the victims with a measure of justice and serves as a signal to others that white collar criminals will be aggressively pursued by the FBI."
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s cooperation in this investigation is appreciated.