San Diego Real Estate Agent To Pay $15M, Serve Jail Time For Defrauding Investors
A San Diego real estate agent will pay nearly $15M in fines and serve five years in jail after pleading guilty to roping investors into Ponzi schemes.
Between 2010 and 2016, Alexander Avergoon defrauded more than a dozen investors out of $12M, according to a release from the Department of Justice. During that time, Avergoon, who was then a San Diego-based agent, “used his industry knowledge and reputation to target trusting victims who would invest in what they thought was the purchase of rental property,” the DOJ said.
Investors thought their money was being put into passive-income investments for their retirements, but it was instead being funneled to Avergoon. To keep the facade of functional investments, Avergoon created fake records including partnership agreements, purchase documents and deeds; forged investors’ signatures; and laundered money, according to the DOJ.
In instances where investors attempted to remove their money, Avergoon would convince them to invest again. In one instance, he bought a commercial building with a loan, but told investors he had used their money to buy the property and pocketed their funds for personal use.
In another instance, Avergoon bilked investors out of at least $5M by fabricating an investment opportunity that he presented as short-term, low-risk loans to borrowers who had used their pricey homes in San Diego as collateral. But the borrowers did not exist. Avergoon forged loan documents, signatures and deeds, and faked stamps from notaries and the San Diego County Recorder’s Office, according to the DOJ. In both instances, money from new investors was paid to existing ones and passed off as investments performing well, as is typical of Ponzi schemes.
“This defendant is a prolific fraudster who has stolen millions of dollars from the many victims of his devious schemes,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a release. “It’s now his turn to pay the price for his crimes.”
As part of his guilty plea, Avergoon admitted he also committed tax evasion and fraud with a former director of Chabad of Poway, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. Goldstein is expected to be sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to tax and wire fraud charges, according to the Times of San Diego.
Avergoon received a sentence of 64 months in prison for his role in defrauding investors. Additionally, he was ordered to pay roughly $9.7M to victims and must also pay $5.2M to the government “as proceeds of illegal conduct and property involved in the offense,” the release stated.
The Times of San Diego reported that Avergoon wrote a handwritten letter to the judge, explaining that his actions were taken to prop up his businesses and avoid letting his employees go, but admitting that was no excuse.
“I made the biggest mistake of my life,” Avergoon wrote.