Trenton, NJ – A New Jersey man who was convicted twice of defrauding investors out of $230 million and whose lengthy prison sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump is facing fraud charges again, federal prosecutors in New Jersey announced Wednesday.
Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein, 48, of Lakewood, also known as Mike Konig, is among five men accused of defrauding a dozen investors out of $35 million, according to an arrest complaint unsealed in federal court in Trenton. All five are charged with wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and each could face up to 25 years in prison.
Philip Sellinger, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said Weinstein used a pseudonym and falsely promised access to deals related to scarce medical supplies, baby formula and first aid kits intended for him..
“These were urgent and sophisticated crimes involving multiple conspirators and pulled straight from Weinstein’s fraud playbook,” Sellinger said.
Weinstein, Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg, 49, of Lakewood, and Shlomo Erez, 55, a citizen and resident of Israel, were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. Two others – Joel Wittels, 57, of Lakewood, and Alaa Hattab, 34, of Ottawa, Canada – remain at large. It is not known if they have retained attorneys.
Weinstein was convicted twice in New Jersey federal court of defrauding investors. The first case involved a real estate Ponzi scheme, and the second stemmed from additional fraud he committed while on pretrial release.
For those crimes, which resulted in total losses to investors of approximately $230 million, Weinstein was sentenced to 24 years in prison. On January 19, 2021, the day before he left office, Trump commuted Weinstein’s term to time less than eight years into his sentence.
Shortly after his release, Weinstein began conducting a new scheme to solicit money from investors through a company called Optimus Investments Inc., according to court documents. Using a pseudonym, he allegedly ran the firm with Bromberg and Wittels, with Weinstein’s real name and identity concealed because, as he admitted in a confidentially recorded conversation, investors wouldn’t give them “a penny” if they knew about his involvement.
Weinstein, Bromberg, and Wittels received most of the investors’ money through another company, Tryon Management Group LLC, which was owned and controlled by two other conspirators, according to the documents. Tryon promised these individual investors – mostly friends and family – profitable opportunities to invest in markets, and the money they gave Tryon was transferred to Weinstein through Optimus.
In February 2022, almost immediately after Tryon and Optimus received investor money, Tryon was unable to pay his investors. Weinstein, Bromberg and Wittels allegedly agreed with Tryon’s owners to pool money from existing Optimus and Tryon investors and use it to make monthly payments to other investors in a Ponzi-like manner. Owners Bromberg, Wittels and Tryon falsely told investors the payments were received from legitimate investment returns, the documents state.
In late August 2022, Weinstein revealed his true identity to Tryon’s owners in a secretly recorded meeting, according to the documents. In another recorded meeting that same month, he admitted to misappropriating Tryon’s investor money and making various false statements about the purported Optimus deals, saying, “I finagled and Ponzied and lied to people to cover us up.”