, 2023-01-14 02:02:25
A 35-year-old man who allegedly bilked Orthodox Jewish investors in Los Angeles and New Jersey out of $47 million and then fled to Israel has been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with using the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle.
The SEC alleged in a lawsuit filed Thursday, Jan. 12, in U.S. District Court that from December 2018 to January 2021, Yossi Engel induced at least 29 individuals to invest in his company, iWitness Tech, LLC by claiming their funds would be used to purchase and install security camera equipment.
Additionally, Engel also allegedly promised that investor funds would be used to purchase property in Israel that would be developed and sold.
“Both of these claims were false,” the SEC said in the suit seeking sanctions and undisclosed civil penalties against Engel. “Rather than use investor money to purchase cameras or develop property, Engel misappropriated the funds by spending investor money for his personal benefit and making Ponzi-like payments to earlier investors in an attempt to keep the scheme going.”
Engel cultivated a reputation in the Orthodox Jewish community as trustworthy, charismatic and generous. According to the SEC, he opened a small synagogue in a room next to his iWitness office where he taught from the Torah, which is the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.
“Engel, however, exploited the goodwill he engendered through his community activities to engage in a fraudulent…
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