New York man pleads guilty to $200M Ponzi scheme defrauding first responders

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A Long Island jewelry wholesaler has pleaded guilty to wire and security fraud charges in connection to a $200 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 80 investors, including police officers and firefighters, according to the Department of Justice.

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Gregory Altieri faces up to 20 years behind bars for running a Ponzi scheme from 2017 to early 2020, according to federal law enforcement officials. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission has sued the 53-year-old for at least three SEC violations, court papers revealed

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York said Altieri’s scheme began in August 2017, when he solicited between $75 million to $85 million in investments for his entity, LNA Associates, from more than  "80 investors located in Queens, Staten Island, Long Island and elsewhere,” according to a press release from the office.

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“Altieri told investors that their money would be used to purchase jewelry at ‘closeout’ prices, which would then be resold at a high profit yielding returns on those investments of between 30 and 70 percent in a matter of months,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said

The 53-year-old resident of Melville, N.Y, promised prospective investors guaranteed returns “that varied from about 30 percent of an investor’s initial investment to, in some instances, over 100 percent, within a short time-frame,” the SEC alleges.

Altieri’s investors included current and retired first responders, according to the SEC.

“While Altieri initially purchased some jewelry with investors’ money, since approximately May 2018, he used money from new investors to pay earlier investors, representing to the latter group that they were receiving returns on their investments,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The purported “returns” were used by Altieri to convince the earlier investors to keep their money with his LNA Associates by “rolling over” their funds into new investments.  Some of that money was used to purchase additional jewelry.

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Officials said Altieri stopped making payments to investors altogether in January 2020, at which point he owed them roughly $200 million “based on the falsely inflated promised returns,” officials said.

Altieri’s attorney, Edward Sapone, told the Long Island newspaper, Newsday his client “should be shown grace and mercy.”

“He has accepted full responsibility,” Sapone reportedly said, “and has made herculean efforts to make amends for his misconduct.”

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