Wilton Manors Man Defrauded many LGBT Investors
WILTON MANORS – Last week, in what sounded more like a whimper than a bang, accused Ponzi schemer Jim Ellis pleaded guilty to charges that he had solicited over a dozen investors since 2004 with the intent to defraud them.
Appearing before Judge Kathleen Williams in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Ellis
Pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and could be subjected to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Ellis is likely to receive a reduced penalty when he is sentenced on April 11, based upon his cooperation with investigators in the case against the Ponzi scheme’s alleged mastermind, George Elia.
As we first reported last spring (Florida Agenda, April 12, 2012, COVER, “Federal Authorities Detail Complaint against Oakland Park man charged in $11 Million Ponzi Scheme: ‘Rainmaker’ alleged to have Bilked Million$ from Wilton Manors Residents”), Elia—who was arrested on March 27, 2012 in Las Vegas—is believed to have bilked as much as $11 million from victims, many of them gay retirees living in Wilton Manors.
The federal charges against Ellis said that he falsely represented investing at least $5 million of his own money with Elia, money he claimed to have inherited from his parents. Ellis further told prospective marks that he had earned between 16 to 20 percent in annual returns, about $20,000 to $24,000 per month.
SEC investigators say that when Ellis made those representations, his net worth was about $200,000, and that there was no evidence he inherited an estate from his parents. Records indicate that businesses owned by George Elia paid Ellis more than $2.1 million between 2004 and 2011, but federal investigators said the payments were not actual investment returns.
In a strange—and uniquely gay—twist to the proceedings against Elia, last month Assistant U.S. Attorney H. Ron Davison filed a motion asking the court to prohibit Elia’s attorneys from preemptively excluding gay jurors from deciding his case.
In his argument, the prosecutor noted that, “George Elia was an equal opportunity con man,” and the sexual identity of prospective jurors should have no bearing upon their ability to render a fair and unbiased verdict. “Sexual orientation should be treated like race, gender, and ethnicity for purposes” of jury selection, Davison argued.