FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Defendant Indicted for Operating a Ponzi Scheme,
Stealing Over $1.3 Million from 14 Victims
Defendant Allegedly Told Victims that She Would Buy Discounted Properties
For Them at a Private Auction, Which Did Not Exist
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a defendant has been arraigned on a 40-count indictment in which she is charged with stealing over $1.3 million from 14 victims in a fraudulent real estate investment scheme in which victims were allegedly told their money would be used to purchase discounted Brooklyn properties at a private auction. It is alleged that no properties were ever purchased, and that the defendant reimbursed some money to older investors, who demanded their funds, using money from more recent investors.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly created an elaborate ploy to convince people to invest their money in what amounted to a Ponzi scheme. This is another example where Brooklyn’s valuable real estate market was exploited for criminal gains. We will now seek to get justice for the many individuals who were swindled out of thousands of dollars.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Regine Norman, a.k.a., Regine Ellis, 66. She was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 40-count indictment in which she is charged with second- and third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and related charges. Bail was set at $350,000 bond or $100,000 cash, and she was ordered to return to court on August 2, 2021.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between May 2018 and September 2020, the defendant allegedly engaged in a real estate fraud scheme in which she told her victims that she had access to buy properties located in Brooklyn and in the surrounding New York area, at a discount, usually by falsely claiming that she was a member of a private real estate auction. She then allegedly convinced her victims to wire her money for down payments on the properties.
After obtaining the down payment, the defendant allegedly provided her victims with fraudulent contracts of sale, which often included the forged signature of the actual property owner, and never used the funds to purchase any property. Among the properties were more than a dozen located in Brooklyn.
Furthermore, according to the investigation, the Department of State has no record of any business entity called “NY Private Auction Inc.,” the private auction company the defendant allegedly claimed to be a member of. The defendant allegedly provided her victims little information about the private auction, telling many victims that they could not attend or speak to anyone at the auction because only members had access.
Moreover, it is alleged that the actual owners of the various properties the defendant claimed were being auctioned never put their properties up for sale at auction and never retained the defendant as a broker or agent with the authority to buy or sell their properties.
Over the course of the defendant’s alleged scheme, several victims suspected they had been defrauded and repeatedly demanded the defendant return their money. The defendant, after holding on to victims’ money for an extended period of time, allegedly returned the full amount of the stolen funds to four victims using money stolen from more recent victims and paid a portion of the stolen funds to three other victims. The defendant allegedly has not returned any funds to seven of the victims.
It is alleged that the victims invested amounts ranging from $9,000 to as much as $350,000. Of the total $1.3 million allegedly received from investors, the defendant returned approximately $306,000. Approximately $998,000 is still outstanding.
The case was investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau and Investigative Analyst Dylan Camche. Supervising Financial Investigator Deborah Wey, of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, assisted in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Abigail Rosen, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the Real Estate Fraud Unit, Assistant District Attorney Gregory C. Pavlides, Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.