NEWARK, NJ. – A New Jersey real estate investor and influencer was arrested today for committing a multimillion-dollar Ponzi-like investment fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Cesar Humberto Pina, 45, of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of wire fraud. He appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward S. Kiel in Newark federal court and was release on $1 million secured bond with electronic monitoring.
“As alleged in the complaint, Pina exploited celebrity status and social media to develop a devoted following of potential victims. Promising returns that were too good to be true, Pina allegedly defrauded dozens of people of millions of dollars. Our office is committed to protecting the public from these schemes and prosecuting those who lie to investors for their own personal gain.”
U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger“Plain and simple, the defendant ran a fraudulent scheme. They falsely represented the nature of their business and lied about potential investment returns to bilk unsuspecting victims out of millions,” Tammy Tomlins, Special Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation Newark Field Office, said. “Today’s arrest highlights IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners’ commitment to investigate and prosecute unlawful behavior.”
“We allege Pina offered a ridiculously high rate of return to investors, then took the millions he got and invested it in himself,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “History has proven time and again, Ponzi-schemes don’t work. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow eventually runs out. Investors take note – it’s your money, don’t let them steal it.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Pina partnered with a celebrity disc jockey and radio personality to conduct real estate seminars around the country. Through these seminars, self-promotional efforts, and other marketing strategies, Pina developed a significant social media following.
Starting in 2017, Pina began accepting investments from victim investors for the alleged purchase, remodel, and sale of specific real estate projects in New Jersey and other states. To induce his victims, Pina often promised 20 to 45 percent returns on investment within five months. But instead of using victims’ investments as promised, Pina engaged in a Ponzi-like scheme by commingling victim money, using new victim investments to pay off prior victims, and spending victim funds on personal expenditures. The investigation has revealed that Pina defrauded dozens of investors of millions of dollars.
The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross amount of any pecuniary gain that any persons derived from the offense or of any pecuniary loss sustained by any victims of the offense, whichever is greatest.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas Mahoney; special agents and task force officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Ortiz in Newark; postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Newark, under the direction of Christopher A. Nielsen, Philadelphia Division; special agents and task force officers of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins in Newark; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the Franklin Lakes Police Department for its assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. Pesce and Carolyn Silane of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.