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Press Release

Leader of Real Estate Telemarketing Fraud Scheme That Defrauded Investors of Over $19 Million Sentenced to 4 Years Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT - A leader of an extensive real estate fraud scheme was sentenced to four years in federal prison today after having pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, U.S Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced. This marks the 20th and final defendant to be convicted and sentenced in this case.

Ison was joined in the announcement by Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan.

According to court documents, Izhak Halbani, 39, admitted to leading a telemarketing fraud scheme based in Florida that lured victims into purchasing residential real estate in Detroit and elsewhere through a variety of lies. 

Halbani and his co-conspirators, using a number of aliases, told victims they were buying bank-owned properties at a fraction of the remaining mortgage balance.  These properties were then purportedly “flipped” to hedge funds and foreign investors—generating supposed returns for the victims and inducing them to invest more into the scheme.  The victims were also told that the telemarketers did not make any money on the victims’ initial purchase but only received a commission from the subsequent resale of the properties—supposedly aligning their incentives with those of the victims.

In reality, the properties the victims purchased were not bank-owned.  Instead, the properties were owned by other entities controlled by Halbani and his co-conspirators, who had routinely purchased the properties for a fraction of what the victims paid.  And the telemarketers did, in fact, make money from the victims’ initial purchase.  Furthermore, rather than being re-sold to third-party hedge funds or foreign investors, the properties bought by the victims were sold to shell entities that were also controlled by the co-conspirators—all part of an effort to portray a ready market for flipping homes.  As part of the scheme, the victims were also provided with fraudulent documentation showing the purported profits earned on the resale of their properties.  Believing that there was a ready market for flipping homes to third parties, many victims sent substantial additional sums to the co-conspirators. They were, however, eventually left owning properties with little actual value or resale potential.

Halbani admitted that the scheme victimized over 290 individuals, involved more than 2000 properties, and caused losses totaling at least $19 million.

“Not only did the perpetrators of this scheme financially devastate countless victims, but they also used homes in our community like Monopoly pieces in a game of fraud—callous to the real impact residential vacancies and blight have on our neighborhoods,” stated United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison.

The following defendants were previously convicted and sentenced for their roles in the fraud scheme:

•          Joseph Arsenault: 121 months’ imprisonment

•          Scott Amster: 102 months’ imprisonment

•          Erez Arsoni: 84 months’ imprisonment

•          Gregory Swarn: 82 months’ imprisonment

•          Antwan Reid: 63 months’ imprisonment

•          John Trumble: 60 months’ imprisonment

•          Richard Silverstein: 57 months’ imprisonment

•          Wayne Scott Simpson: 57 months’ imprisonment

•          Joseph Haden: 52 months’ imprisonment

•          Scott Lipman: 30 months’ imprisonment

•          Steven Goldstein: 27 months’ imprisonment

•          Joel Munoz: 27 months’ imprisonment

•          Theodore Jacobs: 24 months’ imprisonment

•          Matthew Golden: 15 months’ imprisonment

•          Richard Pierce: 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment

•          Edward Keeler: 1 day of imprisonment and 30 months’ supervised release

•          Amanda Balcer: 1 day of imprisonment and 24 months’ supervised release

•          Michelle Pintado: 1 day of imprisonment and 24 months’ supervised release

•          Robert Gallik: 1 day of imprisonment and 24 months’ supervised release

The case was investigated by the FBI.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Yahkind, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Nathan is handling forfeiture matters.

Updated February 22, 2024

Topic
Financial Fraud