Manhattan Business Owner Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that JASON KONIOR, the founder and manager of a number of related business entities in New York City, collectively referred to as “Absolute,” pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court in connection with his operation of a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme in which he stole at least $2.9 million from small hedge fund investors and used the funds to pay off prior investors and to pay himself. KONIOR was originally charged in February 2013, and pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “In the space of less than a year, Jason Konior managed to take at least $2.9 million that he had solicited from his investors, and then use it to settle up with previous investors and to pay himself. Today’s plea ensures that he will be punished for perpetrating this Ponzi scheme on his victims.”
According to the Information, statements made during today’s guilty plea proceeding, and a Complaint previously unsealed in Manhattan federal court:
From late 2011 through May 2012, KONIOR organized and managed a Ponzi scheme in which he misappropriated at least $2.9 million in funds he had solicited from hedge fund investors. He represented to these investors that Absolute would provide additional trading funds of up to nine times the investment they made in Absolute. As part of Absolute’s “first loss” investment program, KONIOR claimed that he would place the combined funds – the investors’ funds and the additional funds to be provided by Absolute – in a brokerage account designated by Absolute. According to KONIOR, the hedge fund investors would then be able to trade securities utilizing that brokerage account. Under the arrangement, the hedge funds would be responsible for trading losses, and they would share any profits with Absolute.
Instead of establishing brokerage accounts for the victim hedge funds, however, KONIOR misappropriated the funds they provided by paying redemptions to prior investors, making payments to himself, and paying various personal and business expenses. In e-mails, text messages, and telephone conversations, KONIOR pretended that he was establishing brokerage accounts for the three hedge fund investors, when he had already stolen their money. For example, in one case, after KONIOR repeatedly failed to set up a brokerage account for one of the hedge fund investors, the manager of the hedge fund investor sent him a text message stating, “I want my money back. What did you do to it anyway? Are you going to tell me or do you want the SEC to find out?” KONIOR responded with a text message stating, “[w]e have your funds in our acct. Where else would they be?” At the time KONIOR wrote the message, he had already used that hedge fund’s investment to pay off other investors and his own expenses.
KONIOR, 39, of New York, New York, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Hellerstein on November 8, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, on which Mr. Bharara serves as a Co-Chair of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Working Group. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Zach and Jason H. Cowley are in charge of the prosecution.