The founder of a Sherman Oaks-based luxury real estate firm remained in custody Friday while two of his former executives were free on bond in connection with an alleged $1.3 billion Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say duped thousands of mostly elderly investors.
Robert Shapiro, 61, the ex-owner of the Woodbridge Group of Companies, and former directors of investments Dayne Roseman and Ivan Acevedo face charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and other federal violations in an indictment unsealed Thursday in the Southern District of Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed parallel civil enforcement actions against Acevedo and Roseman for their alleged roles in the scheme. Shapiro and Woodbridge were previously sued by the SEC.
Shapiro of Sherman Oaks, Roseman, 35, of Encino and Acevedo, 42, of Chatsworth, made their initial appearances before a magistrate judge Thursday in downtown Los Angeles. Roseman and Acevedo were released on bond, while Shapiro — not to be confused with L.A. celebrity attorney Robert L. Shapiro — remained in custody. Further court dates for the defendants have not yet been set.
Prosecutors said the alleged scheme was orchestrated from Woodbridge offices in Sherman Oaks and elsewhere. From July 2012 to December 2017, Shapiro, Acevedo, Roseman and co-conspirators promoted speculative and bogus securities to potential investors, targeting elderly investors who had Individual Retirement Accounts, federal prosecutors allege.
A Woodbridge phone room managed by Roseman and Acevedo used high-pressure sales tactics and lies to defraud victims, soliciting money in exchange for promissory notes reflecting purported loans to Woodbridge that paid monthly interest and matured in up to 18 months, the government alleges.
Shapiro allegedly siphoned off $35 million for his own benefit, spending $3.1 million for private planes and travel, $6.7 million on a home, $2.6 million on home improvements, $1.8 million on personal income taxes, $1.4 million to his ex-wife, and more than $672,000 on luxury automobiles, according to he DOJ.
The indictment further alleges that Shapiro caused most of the Woodbridge companies to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which caused investors to suffer substantial losses, as they were owed close to $1 billion in principal.
At least 2,600 of these investor victims invested their retirement savings, totaling about $400 million in losses, according to the DOJ.