In an unlikely turn of events, a Florida man decided to
change his plea from 'not guilty' to 'guilty' on the third day of his trial,
effectively ending the trial. George Elia, 69, made his decision after
hearing a morning of testimony from a number of his victims and several more
scheduled to take the stand during the afternoon. Elia agreed to plead
guilty to all ten charges he was facing, including nine counts of wire fraud
that each carry a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.
Elia was accused of targeting members of the south
Florida gay community Wilton Manors, telling them that he was an established
day trader who could achieve quarterly returns of 20% for investors. From March
2005 to January 2012, Elia raised more than $11 million from investors for
various entities he controlled, including Investor Funding Group and a series
of Vision Equity Funds.
However, rather than use the entirety of investor funds
for their promised purpose, Elia misappropriated large amounts of investor
funds, transferring money to other companies he controlled and paying personal
expenses such as mortgage and car payments. In the marginal amount of
trading actually conducted, Elia did not achieve the advertised lucrative
gains, but instead incurred losses or only minimal gains.
Elia was arrested in March after returning from
"vacation" in Cyprus - a country known for its lack of extradition
treaties with the United States. After plea negotiations that would have
had Elia plead to a single count of wire fraud, authorities
unsealed a subsequent
indictment in September that levied eight more charges of wire fraud.
Elia is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14, 2013.
Elia's attorney indicated that they will be disputing the amount of
investor losses, which plays a crucial role in the recommended sentencing
range. Elia could potentially face a life sentence.
For more news and analysis of Ponzi schemes, visit
Ponzitracker, a blog by Jordan Maglich, an attorney at Wiand Guerra King P.L.
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