Real Estate Developer Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison For Defrauding Investors Out Of $58 Million In Years-Long Real Estate Investment Scheme
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that MICHAEL D’ALESSIO was sentenced to 72 months in prison for operating a years-long scheme to defraud investors in his luxury real estate development projects in Manhattan, the Hamptons, Westchester, and elsewhere, and for making false claims and concealing assets in connection with his bankruptcy case. D’ALESSIO pled guilty on November 8, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman, who imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Michael D’Alessio promised investors that he would develop and build luxury properties that would yield big returns. When the real estate market took a downturn, D’Alessio resorted to fraud. In the end, all he built was a Ponzi scheme that he used to rip off his investors of their hard-earned life savings to the tune of $58 million. Today, D’Alessio was sentenced to six years in prison for this brazen fraud. Others who would consider funding a life of luxury with the proceeds of fraud should take heed. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to see that such fraud is met with justice, and that those who would commit such crimes understand that crime doesn’t pay.”
According to the Indictment, Superseding Information, and statements made in court filings and proceedings:
D’ALESSIO, a real estate developer and general contractor, served as the president and chief executive officer of a real estate investment and development firm specializing in the design, construction, and management of both residential and commercial real estate properties (“Company-1”). D’ALESSIO and Company-1 developed, and purported to develop, luxury residential real estate properties in Manhattan, the Hamptons, Westchester, and elsewhere.
D’ALESSIO typically followed the same pattern in each real estate investment project: he sought investments by offering for sale shares in a newly formed limited liability company (“LLC”) named after the location of the parcel of real estate to be developed and sold (the “Target Property”). In exchange for a purchase of shares in the LLC, D’ALESSIO promised a guaranteed monthly interest payment and a share in the profits from the sale of the Target Property. In soliciting investors, D’ALESSIO made numerous representations to potential investors, including that investor funds would be used only to develop the relevant Target Property and to cover related business expenses of the relevant LLC.
However, in reality, from 2015 through April 2018, D’ALESSIO misappropriated investor funds for his own use and benefit, and made other material misrepresentations. For example, in the case of a purported luxury condominium development on the Upper East Side, D’Alessio represented to investors that the building would be delivered to him vacant. In reality, however, and as D’Alessio knew, the property was inhabited by rent-controlled tenants who could not be easily evicted. In contrast to his representations of a speedy development project and a viable investment opportunity, no substantial changes could be made to the property while those tenants remained in occupancy.
Upon receiving investor funds, D’ALESSIO typically channeled those funds through a series of bank accounts held in the names of shell companies owned and controlled by D’ALESSIO. D’ALESSIO then used much of those investor funds for his own benefit, including to pay off debts and prior investors, and to fund significant gambling and other personal expenses. D’ALESSIO took steps to conceal his fraud, including deceiving investors regarding the progress of various real estate projects and using money raised from investors to make monthly payments to investors in different projects in the manner of a Ponzi scheme. D’ALESSIO defrauded investors out of approximately $58 million.
In 2018, D’ALESSIO went into involuntary bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the United States Code. In connection with this bankruptcy proceeding, captioned In re Michael D’Alessio, No. 18-22552 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y.), D’ALESSIO submitted forms that fraudulently omitted money and property belonging to his estate, and made a false declaration under penalty of perjury concerning his money and property. Specifically, at the time of D’Alessio’s arrest in August 2018, law enforcement agents found $44,000 in cash, including $30,000 in a gym bag alongside a firearm. Following the arrest, law enforcement agents also learned about a bank account controlled by D’Alessio — which had not been reported in the bankruptcy — that carried a cash balance of $3,047.16. D’Alessio’s cell phone also contained text messages between D’Alessio and another individual in which D’Alessio stated: “I need some of my money tomorrow for Italy” and “I need my 100k I gave you to hold.” All together, D’Alessio concealed at least $143,047.16 from the Bankruptcy Court.
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In addition to the prison term, D’ALESSIO, 53, of New York, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and order to pay forfeiture in the amount of $58,090,047.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Kramer and Daniel G. Nessim are in charge of the prosecution.