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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ft. Lauderdale Ponzi Schemer Sentenced To 12 Years’ Imprisonment

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced the sentencing of George Elia, 69, formerly of Fort Lauderdale. United States District Judge Kathleen Williams sentenced Elia to 12 years’ imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release.

According to evidence presented during the trial and sentencing, George Elia, and his conspirator James “Jim” Ellis, 70, also of Fort Lauderdale, operated a Ponzi scheme. Elia guaranteed that investor money was safe, and that he had high rates of returns from his day trading of stock, including Facebook stock. In late 2011, however, payments to investors became irregular, investors filed civil lawsuits against Elia, and in January 2012, Elia sold his home, shipped his belongings to his native Cyprus, and fled. He was arrested returning to Las Vegas with his wife in March 2012.

As a result of his scheme, approximately 50 victims lost approximately $10 million after investing with Elia. Elia used investor money to purchase two Bentleys, a Rolls Royce, approximately $500,000 in jewelry, and Chanel and Hermes jewelry.

On April 30, co-conspirator Ellis was sentenced to 38 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Williams.

Mr. Ferrer commended investigative efforts of the FBI and the cooperation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys H. Ron Davidson and Wilfredo Fernandez.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

Updated March 12, 2015