LANSING (WWJ) - A 68-year-old West Bloomfield man has pleaded guilty to conducting a Ponzi scheme that targeted senior citizens.
Charles David Eizelman was convicted of one count of false pretenses of more than $20,000, a ten-year felony, before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bill earlier this week. As part of the plea, $387,100 in restitution will be paid to the victims, with $100,000 to be paid immediately at sentencing. He’s due back in court on Nov. 19.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the charges resulted from an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office after the victims filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
“Financial scams targeting seniors are reprehensible and must not be tolerated,” Schuette said in a release. “Our office is committed to helping citizens avoid financial scams and aggressively prosecuting those who prey on our parents and grandparents.”
According to court documents, Eizelman admitted that in 2005 he was involved in a complex scheme where he accepted money from unsuspecting senior citizens under the false pretense that their money was being placed in legitimate investments. Under the arrangement, Eizelman accepted money from the victims and promised to have “interest” payments sent to them.
For a period of time, payments were made and the victims were made to feel comfortable enough to “invest” more money into the scheme. Once the payments stopped, the victims tried multiple ways to get their money back before finally contacting the Attorney General’s Office in August of 2010.
Schuette encourages seniors to exercise caution before investing their money with those who promise exorbitant returns. Key tips to avoid falling victim to a Ponzi scheme or investment fraud include:
• Check out your broker or adviser. Confirm that your broker and financial adviser is registered and in good standing. Contact the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, at 1-877-999-6442, to check out your broker or adviser.
• Beware of strangers touting strange deals. Trusting strangers is a mistake anyone can make when it comes to their personal finances. Almost anyone can sound nice or honest on the telephone. Say “no” to any investment professional who presses you to make an immediate decision, giving you no opportunity to check out the salesperson, firm and the investment opportunity itself. Beware of anyone who suggests investing your money into something you don’t understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands.
• Take your time – don’t be rushed into investment decisions. Salespersons who use high-pressure tactics to force an investor into an immediate decision are almost always pitching frauds. They don’t want you to think too carefully or find out too much because you may figure out that it’s a scam.
• Keep tabs on your investments. Be wary when a financial planner says “leave everything to me,” or “the plan is too complicated to tell you.” Everything should be clear and explainable to you.
• Monitor the activity on your account. Insist on receiving regular statements.
• Ask Questions. Never be embarrassed or apologetic about asking questions for trading activity that looks excessive or unauthorized. It’s your money, not your broker’s.
• Keep Diligent Records. Keep all of your records relating to your investments, including notes of conversations you have with brokers, salespeople, and financial advisers.