SEC Charges New Jersey Man in Real Estate Investment Scam
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a New Jersey man with operating a Ponzi-like scheme involving a series of investment vehicles formed for the purported purpose of purchasing and managing rental apartment buildings in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The SEC alleges that David M. Connolly induced investors to buy shares in real estate investment vehicles he created through his firm Connolly Properties Inc. He promised investors monthly dividends based on cash-flow profits from rental income at the apartment buildings as well as the growth of their principal from the appreciation of the property. However, the real estate investments did not produce the projected dividends, and Connolly instead made Ponzi-like dividend payments to earlier investors using money from new investors. Connolly, who lives in Watchung, N.J., also siphoned off at least $2 million in investor funds for his personal use.
“David Connolly presented himself to investors as a successful real estate investment manager with a track record of paying consistent, high returns,” said George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “In truth, Connolly’s operation was essentially a shell game intended to raise additional funds from new or existing investors in order to perpetuate his fraudulent scheme.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, which conducted a parallel investigation of the matter, today announced that Connolly was indicted on one count of securities fraud among other criminal charges.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in New Jersey, none of Connolly’s securities offerings in the investment vehicles were registered with the SEC as required under the federal securities laws. Connolly began offering the investments in 1996 and ultimately raised in excess of $50 million from more than 200 investors in more than 25 investment vehicles. However, beginning in at least 2006, Connolly misrepresented to investors that their funds would be used exclusively for the property related to the particular vehicle in which they invested. Connolly instead commingled the funds in bank accounts that he alone controlled and used for a variety of purposes that weren’t disclosed to investors, including $2 million in payments he made to himself that vastly exceeded any dividends to which he would be entitled through his ownership stake. Between 2007 and 2010, Connolly also wrote checks to “cash” in excess of $2.5 million. Even after Connolly stopped making dividend payments to investors in April 2009, he still continued to pay himself dividends as well as a $250,000 “salary” out of investor funds.
The SEC alleges that Connolly lacked sufficient revenues from rental income at the apartment buildings, so he continued to raise millions of dollars for new investment vehicles. He used the funds to pay purported monthly cash-flow dividends in excess of 10 percent to investors in older investment vehicles. Connolly refinanced properties and improperly used the cash proceeds to continue the scheme, which ultimately collapsed in 2009 when new investor funds dried up and rental income was insufficient to support payments on the mortgages. The properties owned by the investment vehicles were forced into foreclosure, wiping out the equity of the investors.
The SEC’s complaint charges Connolly with violating Sections 5(a), 5(c) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Justin Smith and William Edwards in the New York Regional Office. Jack Kaufman will lead the litigation.
The SEC thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service for their assistance in this matter.