New criminal charges have been filed against two former WexTrust Capital LLC executives accused of running a $255 million Ponzi scheme that targeted Orthodox Jews.
The case surfaced last August when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused the executives, Steven Byers and Joseph Shereshevsky, of conducting at least 60 private placements and creating 150 entities purportedly to fund commercial real estate ventures, when in fact they were diverting money to themselves or to pay off prior investors.
In a superseding indictment made public on Friday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York accused Byers and Shereshevsky of three counts of securities fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors seek the return of the $255 million.
An earlier indictment, filed last November, accused the men of one count each of securities fraud and conspiracy, and sought the return of just $9.2 million.
Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
In a Ponzi scheme, money from new investors is used to pay off old ones. The old con game gained new notoriety following the December arrest of financier Bernard Madoff, who later pleaded guilty to running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme and is now serving a 150-year prison sentence.
Last week, in the SEC case against WexTrust, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin approved a receiver's plan to liquidate the Chicago firm's assets and distribute proceeds to victims.
Chin is the judge who sentenced Madoff.
The WexTrust criminal case is U.S. v. Byers and Shereshevsky, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 08-1092. The WexTrust civil case in the same court is SEC v. Byers and Shereshevsky, No. 08-7104.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by John Wallace)