Canadian Resident Admits Conspiring with Convicted Ponzi Schemer and Others to Defraud Investors of Tens of Millions of Dollars
TRENTON, N.J. – A resident of Canada today admitted conspiring with a twice-convicted fraudster to defraud investors of more than $35 million, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Alaa Mohamed Hattab, 35, of Ottawa, Ontario, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Hattab admitted conspiring with others, including Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein, whose 24-year federal prison sentence was commuted after being twice convicted of defrauding investors of a total of $230 million.“This defendant admitted scheming with others – including Eli Weinstein – to defraud investors of millions of dollars,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said. “Using phony identities and empty promises of access to deals involving scarce medical supplies, baby formula, and first-aid kits supposedly destined for wartime Ukraine, they ripped off their victims. We will continue to pursue justice for everyone involved in this case. Securities and investment fraud enforcement is a top priority of this office, and this case reflects our firm commitment to protecting investors and our markets.”
“This defendant admitted scheming with others – including Eli Weinstein – to defraud investors of millions of dollars. Using phony identities and empty promises of access to deals involving scarce medical supplies, baby formula, and first-aid kits supposedly destined for wartime Ukraine, they ripped off their victims. We will continue to pursue justice for everyone involved in this case. Securities and investment fraud enforcement is a top priority of this office, and this case reflects our firm commitment to protecting investors and our markets.”
U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger
“Fraudsters will use any and every method they can to steal as much as they can, even using a deadly war raging in Europe,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “Hattab aligned himself with another well-known, twice-convicted Ponzi schemer carrying out a plan to rip off investors who thought they were helping war victims in Ukraine. The FBI warns people about these types of criminals each time there is a natural disaster or tragic event in the U.S. or around the world for this very reason. Human suffering does not deter them from seeing dollar signs.”
Two of Hattab’s conspirators, Christopher Anderson, 47, and Richard Curry, 36, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and are awaiting sentencing.
Charges are still pending against Hattab’s other conspirators, Weinstein, Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg, Joel Wittels, and Shlomo Erez.
Weinstein was convicted two times in New Jersey federal court for defrauding investors. His first case involved a real estate Ponzi scheme, and his second case stemmed from additional fraud Weinstein committed while on pretrial release. For these crimes, which resulted in combined losses to investors of approximately $230 million, Weinstein was sentenced to serve 24 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. On Jan. 19, 2021, after Weinstein had served less than eight years, the President of the United States at that time commuted Weinstein’s term to time served, leaving intact the rest of his sentence.
Soon after being released from prison, Weinstein began orchestrating a new scheme to solicit money from investors through a company called Optimus Investments Inc. (Optimus). Using the fake name “Mike Konig,” Weinstein ran Optimus with Bromberg and Wittels. Hattab served as a broker for Optimus and helped conceal Weinstein’s involvement in various business ventures from investors.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Hattab admitted that from February 2022 to July 2023, Hattab’s business partners raised money from investors to fund purported business ventures with Weinstein, including a company
called Saniton Plastic LLC. On Aug. 26, 2022, Hattab met with Curry, Anderson, Weinstein, and Bromberg at a hotel in Branchburg, New Jersey, and discussed continuing to conceal Weinstein’s identity from investors and others. Hattab admitted he became aware that Weinstein had raised money from investors for specific deals on medical supplies and baby formula and used that money for other purposes, including to fund Hattab’s business ventures. Hattab admitted he understood that information concerning Weinstein’s misappropriation from investors and others was important for investors to know, and that he agreed with others to mislead investors by not disclosing Weinstein’s misappropriations.
The count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 20, 2024.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the direction of Antonia Apps, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Fayer, Emma Spiro, and Carolyn Silane of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations against Weinstein, Bromberg, Wittels, and Erez are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.