Trump pardons Ponzi schemer for fraud

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures at weightlifting as he speaks at a Republican volunteer recruitment event at Fervent, a Calvary Chapel, in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 8, 2023.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A New Jersey man whose prison sentence was commuted for conducting a huge pyramid scheme by Donald Trump on the last day of his presidency was charged on Wednesday with orchestrating a similar scheme.

Eli Weinstein and four accomplices are accused of overseeing a new Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say swindled more than $35 million from 150 victims.

Weinstein has now been charged three times with investor fraud.

The first came in 2013, when he pleaded guilty to 45 counts of fraud and conspiracy to steal over $200 million from investors. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to a second count, this time of wire fraud, while on trial over pyramid schemes.

Weinstein was serving eight years of his 24-year sentence when Trump granted him clemency in 2021, as one of 143 people to receive either pardons or commutations in Trump’s final hours.

His release from prison was the culmination of a costly lobbying effort by those close to Trump, including attorney Alan Dershowitz, arguing that Weinstein never received a fair trial.

The campaign to get Trump to grant Weinstein clemency was later the subject of a New York Times article detailing how Weinstein’s allies paid for access to various Trump insiders.

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On the day of his inauguration, the White House described Weinstein as a “father of seven and a loving husband.”

“Following his release, he will receive strong support from his community and faith communities,” the official release statement said.

At a press conference Wednesday announcing the latest indictments, US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said, “Weinstein picked up exactly where he left off: He stole millions of dollars from investors through a web of lies and fraud .”

According to the criminal complaint, Weinstein and his accomplices set up bogus mutual funds and told would-be investors that their money “would be invested in lucrative deals involving COVID-19 masks, scarce baby food and first-aid kits, among other things.” on the way to Ukraine.

To hide his true identity and criminal past, Weinstein used the name “Mike Konig” in communications with investors.

In addition to the criminal charges filed against Weinstein, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday filed a civil complaint against Weinstein and five other alleged co-conspirators.

“Accordingly, the defendants accepted money from unsuspecting investors for bogus trades and re-routed funds to pay off previous investors to create the false impression that they were making real profits from these trades,” said Antonia Apps, director of the SEC in New York Regional Office in a statement on Wednesday.

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