Feds Say Fraudster Freed by Trump Went Back to Old Ways

Eliyahu Weinstein scammed investors with bogus deal, federal prosecutors say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2023 9:47 AM CDT
Feds Say Fraudster Freed by Trump Went Back to Old Ways
Weinstein and four other men have been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.   (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

A criminal freed by a pardon from former President Trump "picked up right where he left off" when he got out of prison in January 2021, federal prosecutors say. Eliyahu Weinstein, who was serving a 24-year-sentence in connection with two Ponzi schemes when Trump freed him, has been charged with scamming investors out of at least $35 million, the New York Times reports. Prosecutors say the 48-year-old and four co-conspirators convinced investors to put money into what they claimed were lucrative deals involving COVID-19 supplies, baby formula, and "first-aid kits supposedly destined for wartime Ukraine." In "Ponzi-like fashion," money from some investors was used to pay other investors, prosecutors said.

"These were brazen and sophisticated crimes that involved multiple conspirators and drew right from Weinstein's playbook of fraud," US Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement. Prosecutors say that in secretly recorded conversations, Weinstein, who used the alias Mike Konig when setting up the bogus deals, told co-conspirators that investors wouldn't give "a penny" if they knew his real name, Politico reports. "I finagled and Ponzied and lied to people to cover us," he said, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors said Weinstein also spoke of hidden assets, telling one person, "I just told you something that no one in the world knows because I hid money."

Weinstein, who could go back to prison for decades if found guilty of charges including wire fraud conspiracy, was one of many who received pardons from Trump "by skipping the official process and relying on well-connected lobbyists and lawyers to obtain relief," the Times reports. After his release in 2021, he promised to change his ways, saying his goal was "to make everybody proud of me and to live my life in the proper fashion." (More presidential pardon stories.)

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