Conviction in Ponzi scheme targeting seniors

LANSING, MI--Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the Attorney General's Criminal Division has secured the conviction of a West Bloomfield man for conducting a Ponzi scheme targeting seniors. The conviction results from an investigation by the Attorney General's Office after the victims filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. Charles David Eizelman, 69, of West Bloomfield, was sentenced on March 8, 2013 by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bill for his guilty plea to one count of False Pretenses, $20,000 or more. As part of the plea, the court ordered $387,100 in restitution to be paid to the victims, with $100,000 that was paid at sentencing. The $100,000 initial restitution will be distributed among Eizelman's three victims. Eizelman must also make additional restitution payments of $34,000 every four months, beginning July 1, 2013 and serve five years' probation with one year incarceration in the Wayne County jail. The period of jail incarceration begins on the date Eizelman fails to make the required quarterly payment of $34,000. ''Con men target our seniors and our most vulnerable, those who can least afford to lose their hard-earned dollars'' said Schuette. ''We will remain aggressive in our efforts to prosecute scam artists who prey on our parents and grandparents.'' In 2005, Eizelman orchestrated a complex scheme accepting money from unsuspecting senior citizens under the false pretense he was placing their money in legitimate investments. Under the arrangement, Eizelman accepted money from the victims and promised to have ''interest'' payments sent to them. For a period of time, payments were made and the victims were made to feel comfortable enough to ''invest'' more money into the scheme. Once the payments stopped, the victims tried multiple ways to get their money back before finally contacting the Attorney General's Office in August of 2010. The Attorney General's Criminal Division then conducted an investigation and filed charges in December of 2011. Eizelman pleaded guilty on August 22, 2012 to one count of False Pretenses - $20,000 or more, a ten year felony, before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bill. Schuette encourages seniors to exercise caution before investing their money with those who promise exorbitant returns. Key tips to avoid falling victim to a Ponzi scheme or investment fraud include: * Check out your broker or adviser. Confirm that your broker and financial adviser is registered and in good standing. Contact the Bureau of Commercial Services with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, at 517-241-6345, to check out your broker or adviser. * Beware of strangers touting strange deals. Trusting strangers is a mistake anyone can make when it comes to their personal finances. Almost anyone can sound nice or honest on the telephone. Say ''no'' to any investment professional who presses you to make an immediate decision, giving you no opportunity to check out the salesperson, firm and the investment opportunity itself. Beware of anyone who suggests investing your money into something you don't understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands. * Take your time - don't be rushed into investment decisions. Salespersons who use high-pressure tactics to force an investor into an immediate decision are almost always pitching frauds. They don't want you to think too carefully or find out too much because you may figure out that it's a scam. * Keep tabs on your investments. Be wary when a financial planner says ''leave everything to me,'' or ''the plan is too complicated to tell you.'' Everything should be clear and explainable to you. * Monitor the activity on your account. Insist on receiving regular statements. * Ask Questions. Never be embarrassed or apologetic about asking questions for trading activity that looks excessive or unauthorized. It's your money, not your broker's. * Keep Diligent Records. Keep all of your records relating to your investments, including notes of conversations you have with brokers, salespeople, and financial advisers. Consumers can find helpful advice and a list of questions to consider in Attorney General Schuette's Consumer Alert for Ponzi Schemes, available on the Schuette's website at Attorney General Schuette also offers specialized consumer advice for seniors on how to avoid investment fraud through the Senior Brigade website, Published: Mon, Mar 18, 2013

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