George Elia Accused of Running Fort Lauderdale Ponzi Scheme

It's probably not a good sign that a $4 million lawsuit regarding an alleged Ponzi scheme seems like "only" $4 million.

While the accusations against 68-year-old Fort Lauderdale real estate broker George Elia pale in comparison to Scott Rothstein's billion-plus Ponzi scheme, people definitely still got screwed.

While the FBI "cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation," Broward investors told the Sun-Sentinel they'd been contacted by investigators about their dealings with Elia, and a recently filed lawsuit lays out accusations of a "massive Ponzi scheme":

[H]e faces a $4 million lawsuit filed by a family alleging that Elia has been running "a massive Ponzi scheme." Bank accounts for his businesses have been frozen because of the litigation, with an accountant finding "significant irregularities," including Elia tapping the businesses to cover personal expenses, court records show.

The Sun-Sentinel story includes details from San Diego investor Michael Imbesi, who filed the lawsuit against Elia and says the man ran off with money from him and several of his family members.

Elia is innocent until proven guilty and all that, but details uncovered by the investigation sure look fishy: mysterious transfers out of business accounts, one for more than $1.6 million; hundreds of thousands in cash withdrawals; a fake office on West Prospect Road. Things were going fine, Imbesi said, until last spring, when his returns of 4 to 7 percent were replaced with excuses like hacked email accounts.

Records show the initial suit was filed back in October, though, so we'll have to see if and when investigators get the goods on Elia. If they do, a lawsuit from some guy in California will probably be the least of his worries.

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