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Justice News

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

Monday, July 12, 2021

Vice President Of Investment Firm Pleads Guilty To Running Multimillion-Dollar Ponzi Scheme

Naim Ismail Admits to Defrauding Subsidiaries of Afghanistan-Based Bank Through Investment and Loan Swindle

Audrey Strauss, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the guilty plea today of NAIM ISMAIL relating to his participation in various investment schemes that defrauded victims of over $15 million.  ISMAIL pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “In spinning a web of lies, Naim Ismail and his co-conspirators gained, and took advantage of, the confidence of vulnerable individual investors as well as a Manhattan-based business, bilking them of millions of dollars in the process.  With today’s guilty plea, Ismail has admitted to his scheme and now faces a prison term for his conduct.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment, court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:

From February 2007 through July 2016, ISMAIL fraudulently induced individual and corporate victims – including the New York-based subsidiary of an Afghanistan-based bank – to loan large sums of money to entities operated by ISMAIL and others.  ISMAIL did so by claiming that these funds would be used in a particular investment strategy as well as several real estate development projects.  ISMAIL promised investors a generous fixed annual rate of return and promised to return the investors’ principal on a specified timeline.  In fact, ISMAIL and his companies did not invest these funds as promised, nor did ISMAIL repay many of his victims.  Instead, ISMAIL used investor funds to pay the so-called interest payments due to earlier investors in the scheme, as well as for his own personal expenses and investments. 

During the course of the fraudulent scheme, ISMAIL deprived the scheme’s victims of over $15 million. 

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ISMAIL, 60, formerly of Irvine, California, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  Sentencing before Judge Torres is scheduled for November 17, 2021, at 11:00 a.m.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction and Homeland Security Investigations on this investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kiersten A. Fletcher and Jonathan E. Rebold are in charge of the prosecution. 

Financial Fraud
James Margolin, Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
Updated July 12, 2021