Convicted NJ Scammer, Pardoned by Trump, Accused of Scamming Again
For a third time, a Lakewood man has been hit with federal charges for scamming investors out of millions of dollars — after being pardoned by President Donald Trump.
Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein — already twice convicted of cheating victims out of a combined $230 million — now has been accused along with four other men of scamming friends and family members out of $35 million.
This time, the 48-year-old Weinstein used the alias “Mike Konig,” according to U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger.
The other men facing new charges were 49-year-old Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg and 57-year-old Joel Wittels, both of Lakewood, along with 55-year-old Shlomo Erez, a citizen and resident of Israel, and 34-year-old Alaa Hattab, of Ottawa, Canada.
A criminal complaint was unsealed on Wednesday, charging each of the five men with one count each of wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Wittels and Hattab remained at large — while Weinstein, Bromberg and Erez had been arrested and were set to appear in Trenton federal court on Wednesday.
⚫ Weinstein’s scam history in Ocean County
Weinstein’s first case involved a $200 million real estate Ponzi scheme. He was arrested in 2010 for actions that began in 2004.
Prosecutors said he used forged documents and bogus deeds to get investors to give him millions, with the promise of hefty returns.
While on pretrial release on the first charge, Weinstein committed another multi-million-dollar investment fraud and was charged again in 2013.
He was sentenced to 24 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Less than eight years into Weinstein’s term on Jan. 19, 2021, Trump commuted the sentence to time served, among his final acts as president.
Many victims of his first scams were members of Weinstein's own Orthodox Jewish community.
Among those who lost money — some wrote letters of support before Weinstein's sentence was commuted.
He thanked them for doing so in a video shared by the Lakewood Scoop in January 2021.
"I also want to thank the president himself for seeing the opportunity here to help bring me back to my family and for giving me a second chance to be with them and granting me this clemency. Thank you so much President Trump, from me and my family from the bottom of our hearts," Weinstein says in the video.
He also thanked Trump's daughter for taking a personal interest in the case and for calling his family — adding “My goal is to make everybody proud of me and to lead my life in the proper fashion."
⚫ 'Weinstein picked up right where he left off’ ripping off investors, feds say
Soon after being released from prison, “Weinstein picked up right where he left off: stealing millions of dollars from investors through a web of lies and deceit,” Sellinger said during a Wednesday press conference.
Using the fake name “Mike Konig,” Weinstein allegedly worked with Bromberg and Wittels, through a company called Optimus Investments Inc.
Weinstein admitted in a secretly recorded conversation, Sellinger said, that investors wouldn’t give them “a penny” if they learned of Weinstein’s real identity and involvement.
Weinstein, Bromberg and Wittels received the bulk of investor money through a second company, Tryon Management Group, which was owned and controlled by two other people.
Tryon promised its investors – mostly the defendants’ friends and family – lucrative opportunities to invest in deals involving COVID-19 masks, scarce baby formula and first-aid kits supposedly bound for Ukraine after being invaded by Russia.
In turn, Tryon transferred those funds to Weinstein, through Optimus, Sellinger said.
The deals quickly spiraled out of control into Ponzi-like chaos, according to prosecutors.
By August 2022, Weinstein revealed his true identity to Tryon owners, admitting in another secretly recorded meeting, “I am Eli Weinstein.”
In another recorded meeting that same month, Sellinger said Weinstein admitted to misappropriating Tryon investor money and lying about Optimus deals, saying “I finagled, and Ponzied, and lied to people to cover us.”
“These were brazen and sophisticated crimes that involved multiple conspirators and drew right from Weinstein’s playbook of fraud,” Sellinger said.
He continued “No matter how many times someone attempts to prey on innocent investors, my office will dedicate whatever resources are necessary to root out and punish fraudsters.”