The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officially accused a guy of defrauding over two dozen Orthodox Jews of $47 million.
In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, the SEC stated that Yossi Engel deceived at least 29 individuals in New Jersey and Los Angeles into investing in his iWitness Tech business between December 2018 and January 2021.
According to allegations against him, he assured investors that the funds would be used to purchase, install, and buy Israeli real estate that would be developed and sold.
According to allegations, however, he continued to solicit investments for his schemes, deliver on many of his promises, and utilize the additional funds to settle previous obligations.
The SEC declared that “both of these assertions were untrue.
“He “misappropriated the funds by spending investor money for his benefit and making Ponzi-like payments to earlier investors to keep the scheme going, rather than using investor money to buy cameras or develop the property.”
He established a reputation as a reliable businessman among Los Angeles’s frum population, claims the LA Times.
He allegedly began approaching investors in 2018 with requests for money to purchase cameras and other equipment with the promise of a lucrative return.
Rates of return ranged from 10% to 20%, with investments between $50,000 and $180,000.
The lawsuit, however, asserts that there were no actual returns on investment.
He allegedly informed investors in April 2020 that he had a special connection to the mayor of Bnei Brak, which allowed him to expedite the development of real estate units that would be sold somewhat below market value, allowing him to make a quick profit.
He allegedly emailed investors a video of him in the mayor’s office and images of an Israeli housing development.
He then admitted that the properties didn’t exist and that the plan was false.
The recordings depicted apartments where he had once resided, and one of the mayors of Bnei Brak was captured when the man supposedly dropped by the official’s office to say hello.
Investors questioned him about why he didn’t get bank loans at a better rate, and he allegedly responded that since he was from Israel, he didn’t have enough credit history of being approved.
The lawsuit asserts that “this was incorrect” and that the reason why [he] couldn’t get bank financing was that his enterprises weren’t legitimate.
His plan failed in December 2020 when he could not find new investors to pay for his previous debts, and he fled to Israel.