New Zealand farmers scammed by Facebook fraudsters

May 1, 2016 by Keren Cook
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A sheep farming couple in Te Kuiti were conned by scammers after trying to buy millions of dollars in Facebook shares.

They are now suing more than a dozen defendants including rabbis, lawyers, and the congregation of an orthodox New York synagogue to recover more than $30 million plus legal expenses.

The Chambers family was tricked into buying almost $6 million worth of non-existent shares before Facebook launched on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.

The New Zealand Herald reports the New York con artists claimed they had “special access” to shares in the social networking company’s initial stock offering. In total, the Chambers family members invested about $9m and have only recovered $2m.

The New-York based fraudsters also convinced the Chambers to invest more than $3m to buy a share in a Florida apartment complex. The FBI confirmed the money was never invested in the complex, rather – funds were directed to their personal accounts.

Mr Gerald Chambers is spearheading the family’s attempts to recover the funds saying” “We’re going to have to fight our way through it and we will,” said Chambers.

When the Chambers family realised they had lost millions, Mr Chambers and his son Julian set up the alleged ringleader, Eliyahu Weinstein, secretly taping the meeting at the Marriott Glenpointe Hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Mr Gerald Chambers told the Herald on Sunday the secret recording proved a crucial part of the FBI’s case. “That’s what canned him,” he said.

Mr Weinstein is already well-known to police authorities for ripping off members of his own synagogue in a 10-year $250m real estate ponzi scheme. He had used the Chambers money to fund his mounting legal fees and extravagant lifestyle. His extravagances included a $14m collection of Jewish artifacts and a $6.2m luxury watch collection.

In January last year, Weinstein pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and emerged as the ringleader of the Facebook scam.  He is due to be sentenced on these charges in December.

A second fraudster, New Jersey businessman Alex Schleider, who befriended son Julian, who was studying for a Master’s degree in the US, has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

A trial is due to start in the New York State Supreme Court, Civil Branch, on May 31, nearly 3 years after the civil case was filed. It’s estimated the legal fees would already be in the millions given the hundreds of documents filed, and thousands of hours of manpower already invested in the case.

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