By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Inside Naples' expensive country clubs, panic set in. Nolan wasn't in danger of losing his house, but he says some friends were forced to give up their lives of late-morning tee times and martinis to return to work.
"There's a lot of people hurting out here," he says. "I never invest more than I can afford, but a lot of folks lost their shirts."
On April 21, federal agents arrested Shapiro on a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court in New Jersey, where Craig Currie — one of his biggest investors — lives. In the SEC's criminal indictment, prosecutors spelled out the scope of the crime: An $880 million Ponzi scheme had fueled at least $38 million in spending on the manse, ladies, and gambling.
Shapiro's voice, husky and calm, sounds just after the beep of a voice-mail message: "Dude, it's Nevin. I told you I'd call you at 9:30, and you didn't answer. I called you four times. It's really a lack of courtesy and respect you give me... I think you should answer a call from me. It's the least you could do. Especially from the position I'm sitting in."
Three more calls come in the next three days. By the last one, Shapiro is unhinged:
"Listen up, you fucking white-bread fucking trash... piece of shit. I'm telling you, you fucking better fucking take a call from me, bro. If not, you're going to have to get a criminal attorney, I'm telling you... little cunt. OK, bye."
The calls, made last month from a prison in New Jersey, were left on the cell phone of an associate who asked not to be named. They plainly illustrate Shapiro's desperate state of mind.
After pleading guilty this past September, with a decades-long term possible at sentencing next month, Shapiro is lashing out the only way he can. He's going down swinging.
Despite all the good times, friends melted away after the arrest. On April 28, UM announced it had removed Shapiro's name from the student lounge two years before because he'd stopped paying on his pledged donation.
Then, three months after Shapiro headed to jail, his longtime business partner, Miriam "Mimi" Menoscal, was arrested and charged with running her own six-figure fraud. The pair had co-owned a firm called Benjaminz Properties, an aborted attempt at a hip-hop fashion line with DJ Irie. They had dated on and off for more than a decade, sources say. Menoscal owned many properties around Miami-Dade, including a $4.6 million mansion in Indian Creek. She often sat in with Shapiro when he pitched new investors on business deals.
In July, though, federal agents arrested Menoscal and a woman named Maida Ponce. The pair had arranged wholesale shipments to a hair care company called Deoso Inc. The feds claimed they had kept the up-front payments without ever shipping any product, stealing at least $380,000.
That setup — a wholesale shipment that brought in cash without shipping anything — would sound familiar to any of Nevin Shapiro's victims. But if he had any hand in Menoscal's case, it doesn't show in the court records. Menoscal pleaded guilty in September.
Shapiro faces up to 20 years as well as a $5 million fine for securities fraud and ten years and $250,000 for money laundering; the feds are still trying to sort out who else helped engineer the scheme.
And Joel Tabas, the trustee overseeing Shapiro's estate, has sued Jack Williams, trying to recover more than $100 million he says Williams gained through Shapiro's business. Williams hasn't been criminally charged, but he pleaded the Fifth more than 850 times in a deposition in September — suggesting he has good reason to worry.
Through his lawyer, Williams has maintained that he's another victim in Shapiro's Ponzi scheme. "Please do not assume that Jack's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege is any sort of admission of culpability on his part. It is not," Martin Raskin, his lawyer, told the Indianapolis Business Journal in September.
Williams' realty office remains open in Naples. His card is prominently displayed on the front desk, though he wasn't in on the afternoon New Times visited last month. He didn't respond to a message left with his partner. But Williams filed for bankruptcy protection this past September 30, listing more than $10 million in creditors — including several Shapiro investors like Jack Hulse — and $6.3 million in assets.
Still, many of Shapiro's victims in Naples don't believe Williams knew anything about the fraud. "Jack is devastated. He's lost a lot of money and a lot of friends," Susan Grinwis says.
Shapiro, meanwhile, hasn't let his time in a New Jersey prison pass quietly. In addition to spewing threatening voice mails from his jail cell, he called the Miami Herald with a big announcement this past August: He's writing a book.
To be titled The Real U: 2001 to 2010. Inside the Eye of the Hurricane, it will bring his once-beloved athletic program to its knees with information on more than 100 athletes who broke NCAA rules, Shapiro promises.
Shapiro seems to feel burned — by his partners, by the sports agency that never worked out, and by his onetime friends. Now, he's ready to burn them all back. "Once the players turned pro, they turned their back on me. It made me feel like a used friend," he told the Herald.