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Press Release

Convicted Ponzi Schemer and Alleged Conspirator Indicted for Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme and Obstruction of Justice

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A New Jersey man whose 24-year federal prison sentence was commuted after being twice convicted of defrauding investors of a total of $230 million was indicted today with one other conspirator in another fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

The indictment charges Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein, aka Mike Konig, 48, and Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg, 49, with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Three of Weinstein and Bromberg’s alleged conspirators, Christopher Anderson, 47, Richard Curry, 36, and Alaa Mohamed Hattab, 35, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and are awaiting sentencing. Charges via criminal complaint are still pending against two of Weinstein and Bromberg’s alleged conspirators, Joel Wittels and Shlomo Erez.

“A federal grand jury in New Jersey has charged Weinstein and Bromberg with defrauding victim investors out of tens of millions of dollars. As alleged, soon after Weinstein got out of jail after receiving a Presidential commutation, he picked his Ponzi schemer’s playbook back up and allegedly started ripping off victims again. Weinstein allegedly used a fake name and worked with Bromberg and others to falsely promise access to deals involving scarce medical supplies, baby formula, and first-aid kits supposedly destined for wartime Ukraine. Weinstein didn’t try to make his prior victims whole – he made more victims, as alleged in the indictment. This office will aggressively investigate and prosecute fraudsters who allegedly prey on innocent investors.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger

“The adage ‘history repeats itself’ proves true in the case we’ve built against Weinstein and his co-conspirators,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “We allege he persuaded investors to put money into several ventures, based on taking advantage of the COVID pandemic, the baby formula shortage, and even the war in Ukraine. Our investigation shows those ventures weren’t real, and to use the exact words the subjects used - it was a Ponzi scheme. Weinstein squandered his pardon from the highest office in this country for similar criminal behavior. He now faces justice, a second time.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

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. They kept Weinstein’s true name and identity hidden because, as Weinstein acknowledged in a secretly recorded conversation, investors wouldn’t give them “a penny” if they learned of Weinstein’s involvement.

Weinstein, Bromberg, and Wittels received the bulk of investor money through a second company, Tryon Management Group LLC, which was owned and controlled by Anderson and Curry. Tryon promised these individual investors – consisting mostly of friends and family – lucrative opportunities to invest in deals involving COVID-19 masks, scarce baby formula, and first-aid kits supposedly bound for wartime Ukraine. Posing as Mike Konig, Weinstein provided the information for these supposed deals. Based on that information, investors gave money to Tryon, believing the deals were legitimate and not knowing about Weinstein’s involvement. In turn, Tryon transferred those funds to Weinstein, through Optimus.

In February 2022, almost immediately after Tryon and Optimus started receiving investor money, Tryon was unable to pay its investors. Rather than reveal this information to investors, the conspirators agreed to pool money from existing investors of both Optimus and Tryon and use it to make monthly payments to other investors in a Ponzi-like fashion. The conspirators concealed this arrangement from investors by falsely telling investors that the payments derived from legitimate investment returns, not other investors’ money.

In late August 2022, Weinstein revealed his true identity to Anderson and Curry, admitting in a secretly recorded meeting, “I am Eli Weinstein.” In another recorded August 2022 meeting, Weinstein admitted to misappropriating Tryon investor money and making various false statements and sending fake documents concerning the purported Optimus deals. Weinstein acknowledged that he was conducting a Ponzi scheme, stating, “I finagled, and Ponzied, and lied to people to cover us.”

Once Anderson and Curry learned that Mike Konig was actually Weinstein, they agreed with Weinstein, Bromberg, and other conspirators to continue concealing Weinstein’s identity from investors and to raise additional money to pay off existing Tryon investors, all in an effort to stop the Ponzi scheme from falling apart and to cover up the fraud.

In addition to defrauding investors, Weinstein and Bromberg also conspired to obstruct justice. They helped hide Weinstein’s assets that should have been used to pay over $200 million in restitution that he still owes his previous victims. They also concealed Weinstein’s myriad business activities, which he was required to disclose to the court and which were expressly prohibited by the terms of his supervised release. In multiple secretly recorded conversations, Weinstein discussed his intent to conceal his various assets from the government. In one such conversation, Weinstein referenced hidden assets that he “can’t touch” while on supervised release because he’d otherwise “go to jail.” Weinstein then boasted, “I just told you something that no one in the world knows because I hid money. Get it?”

The conspiracy and substantive securities fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $5 million fine. The conspiracy and substantive charges of wire fraud are punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of either $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. The obstruction conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a maximum fine of either $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy, with the investigation leading to the charges in this case. He also expressed appreciation for 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, Carolyn Silane, and Marko Pesce of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations against Weinstein, Bromberg, Wittels, and Erez are merely allegations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Updated February 20, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-063