Geroge Elia, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida was arrested for wire fraud on Tuesday after he stepped off of a flight from London to Las Vegas, Nevada. Police have been searching for Elia for two months after he allegedly defrauded South Florida investors out of nearly $10 million. Elia, 68, is currently facing one federal charge of wire fraud; it is not clear whether an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation will yield more charges. It is not clear whether Elia is eligible to receive bail bond. He will soon be transported from Nevada to Florida to face the charges. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Elia’s wife, Darlene Elia, reportedly accompanied her husband back to the United States. Here whereabouts are currently unknown, but a Broward Circuit Judge had ordered her arrest and return to South Florida. She has a contempt of court issued against her for failing to attend lawsuit depositions related to her husband’s alleged fraud.
George Elia was reportedly in Cyprus, Greece (his birthplace) during the time when he was missing from the United States. He and Darlene Elia moved out of their South Florida home overnight earlier this year as his former clients started to file lawsuits against him. It is not entirely clear why Elia decided to come back to the United States.
According to reports from up to 20 investors, Elia misled them into believing that his company, International Consultants & Investment Group Limited Corporation, was managing $8 million in funds in the stock market. One investor photographed Fidelity records that Elia allegedly showed him during a meeting at the Ritz-Carleton, which reflected a total balance of $8.242 million for Elia’s investments. Later, the FBI determined that Elia was actually managing around $111,000.
Investors said that Elia was judicious about sending regular reports and payments, which showed significant gains, but that he suddenly stopped doing so in the summer of last year. Investors reported that they were unable to each Elia via phone or email when they attempted to contact him. The realtor who was in charge of his residence reported that several people came by the home looking for Elia after he had moved out.
Several investors have decided to file lawsuits against Elia in order to recover some of their lost assets. The largest of the lawsuits as of now is that of Michael Imbesi and his family. Imbesi claims that he started working with Elia in 2005, and that he referred his whole family to Elia after Elia gained his trust. He alleges that his parents invested their entire retirement fund with Elia, and that they have now lost it all. He claims that in total, he and his family lost $4 million. Imbesi is suing for that amount in Broward County court.
At least four other investors reported having lost at least half a million dollars apiece. Elia reportedly had at least 30 clients, most of whom live in the Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale areas. Investigations have allegedly revealed that Elia transferred millions in client money to accounts controlled by his wife or himself, which the couple later used for their own purposes.