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California men plead guilty in Florida to $1.3 billion fraud scam with 7,000 victims

It became a Ponzi scheme that paid older investors with money from newer ones, court records show.
Two California men have pleaded guilty in South Florida for their roles in a $1.3 billion real estate fraud scheme that stole money from thousands of investors nationwide.
Two California men have pleaded guilty in South Florida for their roles in a $1.3 billion real estate fraud scheme that stole money from thousands of investors nationwide. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jul. 14

MIAMI — Two California men have pleaded guilty in South Florida for their roles in a $1.3 billion real estate fraud scheme that stole money from thousands of investors nationwide.

Dane Roseman, 38, and Ivan Acevedo, 44, both of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty Monday in Miami federal court to participating in a massive investment fraud scheme, in which more than 7,000 victims suffered financial losses, according to court records. Co-defendant Robert Shapiro was previously sentenced to 25 years in prison for orchestrating the scheme. Roseman and Acevedo are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20.

Shapiro was the the former owner, president and CEO of Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC. The company had offices employing 130 people in California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and Connecticut. Prosecutors say Shapiro told investors that Woodbridge held real estate loans that would pay them rates of interest between 5 percent and 10 percent. In fact, the real estate also was owned by Shapiro through 270 shell companies and did not generate the necessary money for investors. Sometimes, the properties didn’t even exist.

It became a Ponzi scheme that paid older investors with money from newer ones, court records show. Five states entered cease-and-desist orders because Woodbridge was selling unregistered securities.

Roseman and Acevedo both worked as sales managers for Woodbridge, officials said. They sold securities and trained and supervised Woodbridge internal sales agents who sold Woodbridge securities. Using high-pressure sales tactics, Shapiro, Roseman, Acevedo and others marketed and promoted these investments as low-risk, safe, simple and conservative.

Authorities say the scam operated from at least July 2012 to December 2017, when the company filed for bankruptcy and defaulted on its obligations to investors.