Former Resident of Bergen County Sentenced to 29 Months in Prison for $1.5 Million Investment Fraud Scheme
NEWARK, N.J. – A former New Jersey resident was sentenced today to 29 months in prison for his role in an investment scheme through which he fraudulently obtained more than $1.52 million from at least three families from 2017 through 2019, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Matthew Benjamin, 54, formerly of Englewood, New Jersey, and now of New York, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. Judge Cecchi imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From May 2017 through August 2019, Benjamin falsely represented to at least three families that his company, Clear Solutions Group LLC, had lucrative contracts to purchase closeout or excess cosmetic inventory from a company, which he would then resell at a mark-up to a second company. Benjamin told the victims that he had access to these closeout goods through his contacts in the cosmetics and fragrance industry, which he purportedly made through his work at his family’s cosmetic wholesale and distribution business prior to starting Clear Solutions Group. Benjamin induced the victims to provide him with money to purchase the inventory from the first company and promised significant profits in return. Instead of investing the money as he promised, Benjamin misappropriated the investors’ money for his own use and benefit.
Benjamin provided the victims with falsified documents, including fake purchase orders, invoices, promissory notes and bank records showing inflated assets of Clear Solutions Group. To lull victims and induce them to continue investing, Benjamin provided them with documents that purported to detail the investors’ profits.
Benjamin misrepresented to certain investors that portions of their profits on the investment contracts were being reinvested in additional deals to purchase and sell cosmetics, which in turn would generate more profits. From time to time, Benjamin made payments to the investors that were purportedly their profits on certain cosmetics contracts.
In reality, Benjamin misappropriated the investors’ money by making payments to other investors in Clear Solutions Group, which were characterized as those investors’ profits from the nonexistent cosmetic contracts, thereby enabling Benjamin to continue to perpetuate his fraudulent scheme and funding Benjamin’s lifestyle, including paying for car and house rental payments, food, international travel, legal fees, technology equipment, and summer camp tuition for his family members.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Cecchi sentenced Benjamin to three years of supervised release and ordered forfeiture of $1.53 million and restitution of $909,539.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil complaint against Benjamin based on allegations underlying the securities fraud charge.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer S. Kozar and Catherine R. Murphy, Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.