Brooklyn Boro

Defendant charged with stealing more than $1.3 million in real estate Ponzi scheme

Told victims she could purchase Brooklyn properties at 'private auction'

May 28, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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A defendant has been charged in Brooklyn Supreme Court with stealing more than $1.3 million from 14 victims in a fraudulent real estate investment scheme in which victims were allegedly told their money would be used to purchase discounted Brooklyn properties at a private auction.

It is alleged that no properties were ever purchased and that the defendant reimbursed some money to older investors, who demanded their funds, using money from more recent investors, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

The defendant, Regine Norman, aka Regine Ellis, 66, was arraigned on Thursday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 40-count indictment in which she is charged with second- and third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and related charges.

Bail was set at $350,000 bond or $100,000 cash, and she was ordered to return to court on Aug. 2, 2021.

According to the investigation, between May 2018 and September 2020, Norman allegedly engaged in a real estate fraud scheme in which she told her victims that she had access to buy properties located in Brooklyn and in the surrounding New York area at a discount — usually by falsely claiming that she was a member of a private real estate auction. She then allegedly convinced her victims to wire her money for down payments on the properties.

After obtaining the down payment, she allegedly provided her victims with fraudulent contracts of sale, which often included the forged signature of the actual property owner, and never used the funds to purchase any property. Among the properties were more than a dozen located in Brooklyn, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

In addition, according to the investigation, the Department of State has no record of any business entity called “NY Private Auction Inc.,” the private auction company of which Norman allegedly claimed to be a member. She allegedly provided her victims little information about the supposed private auction, telling many victims that they could not attend or speak to anyone at the auction house because only members had access.

The actual owners of the properties that the defendant claimed were being auctioned never put their properties up for sale at auction and never retained Norman as a broker or agent with the authority to buy or sell their properties, the indictment charges.

Over the course of the Norman’s alleged scheme, several victims suspected they had been defrauded and repeatedly demanded that she return their money. After holding on to victims’ money for an extended period of time, she allegedly returned the full amount of the stolen funds to four victims using money stolen from more recent victims and paid a portion of the stolen funds to three other victims.

The victims invested amounts ranging from $9,000 to as much as $350,000, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Of the total $1.3 million allegedly received from investors, the defendant returned approximately $306,000.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly created an elaborate ploy to convince people to invest their money in what amounted to a Ponzi scheme. This is another example where Brooklyn’s valuable real estate market was exploited for criminal gains. We will now seek to get justice for the many individuals who were swindled out of thousands of dollars.”

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Abigail Rosen of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau.

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