George Elia is reportedly under investigation in Broward County, Florida by the FBI for a an alleged Ponzi scheme. Elia has invoked his right to remain silent and is not believed to be in custody at this time, although he is currently facing lawsuits stemming from the alleged scheme. His criminal defense attorney has not issued any comments.
Elia is being accused by several former investors of running a Ponzi scheme that lost investors millions, often constituting their entire life savings. Elia still owns International Consultants, the company he supposedly used to run the scheme. A Broward Circuit Judge froze all accounts connected with International Consultants and Elia Realty, a company operated by Elia’s wife after Michael Imbesi, a former client, filed an injunction.
“This has been emotionally devastating,” Imbesi told the press. He and his family have filed a $4 million lawsuit against Elia, alleging that Elia lost them all their life savings. Authorities expect that more alleged victims will come forward as the investigation continues.
Imbesi claims that he started investing with Elia in 2005 and eventually referred his father, stepmother and sister to Elia as well. Elia, he says, committed fraud by sending falsified statements with returns of between 4-7% per quarter. However, Imbesi says that this pattern faltered in 2011, when Elia started citing a hacked email account and medical issues.
Imbesi claims that his father and stepmother asked for their entire investment back – the $250,000 constituted their entire life savings, he says. However, Elia made excuses and did not return the investment. Imbesi claims that the stress from the event landed his stepmother in the hospital after she had a severe anxiety attack.
Court records indicate that Elia’s business accounts showed “significant irregularities.” Transaction history reportedly revealed that International Consultants had transferred $729,000 to Elia Realty, Elia’s wife’s business, and had transferred another $1.6 million to another business controlled by Darlene Elia. The account also showed over $242,000 in cash withdrawals, $21,000 in car payments to luxury car dealerships, and payments to utility companies, pool and lawn service providers, and mortgage providers.
A different lawsuit filed in 2008 alleged that International Consultants lost a Georgia man over $50,000. The story is similar to the one told in the Imbesi case: the man had asked for his principle back after becoming concerned, and Elia failed to deliver. The case was settled for $27,500, according to court records.
Pending the Imbesi allegations, Elia reportedly fled his home during the night after taking out a mortgage. His realtor reports that the home was assessed at $900,000 and that the Elias had been attempting to sell the home. The realtor says that she bought the home for $600,000 after realizing that the Elias were fleeing. They had previously told her that they were moving to Hawaii, although this has not been confirmed. The realtor reported that investors periodically come by the house looking for Elia.
A warrant has not yet been issued for Elia’s arrest. Officials have indicated that any other victims should notify the