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California man pleads guilty in Florida to $1.3B fraud scam

Published:Thursday | August 8, 2019 | 10:58 AM
AP photo

MIAMI (AP) — A California man pleaded guilty in Florida to orchestrating a $1.3 billion fraud scheme that stole money from thousands of investors nationwide.

Court records show 61-year-old Robert Shapiro pleaded guilty Wednesday in Miami to mail and wire fraud and tax evasion.

He faces up to 25 years in prison at sentencing in October.

Federal prosecutors say Shapiro’s Woodbridge Group had offices in California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and Connecticut.

The pitch to investors was that Woodbridge held real estate loans paying them high levels of interest.

In fact, the real estate was also owned by Shapiro and, sometimes, didn’t exist.

It was a Ponzi scheme that paid older investors with money from newer ones.

Prosecutors say Shapiro will forfeit jewellery, paintings by artists such as Picasso and Renoir and other assets.

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