News :: Local

More Victims Line up in Manors Ponzi Scheme

by Gideon Grudo
Monday Mar 19, 2012
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When SFGN first reported on the financial swindle that allegedly preyed on residents of Wilton Station, there were 13 people signed up with a law firm, readying themselves to sue those accused of defrauding them. There are now 22.

The alleged victims have hired the law firm of Becker and Poliakoff, the same firm that once represented the victims of the Bernie Madoff scheme. Today they are after George Elia, who purportedly took their money while promising hefty returns that never fully materialized.

The victims are claiming that a local resident, Jim Ellis, introduced them to Elia through parties hosted at Wilton Station and nearby bars, hosted by his own daughter, Janet, who also serves as the property manager at the condominium complex. Each claim no wrongdoing in the incident.

While sources claim Elia is under investigation by the FBI, no criminal charges have been filed against him. As reported last month in the Sun Sentinel, a California family has sued him for fraud. Additionally, the Office of Financial Regulation, a federal agency, has also recently confirmed that its investigators are looking into the matter, while noting an investigation is not a barometer of guilt.

One of the anonymous complainants in SFGN’s first report about the Ponzi scheme has now come forward. Previously identified only as ’Jefferson,’ Wilton Station resident Rick Khun has acknowledged he poured upwards of $100,000 in investments into Elia’s scheme, and lost a small fortune.

"I want to stand up for what is right and give the facts - and was earlier encouraged by legal entities to stay quiet," he said. "But the serious nature of this situation begets the facts coming out now."

Khun said he wanted to protect his Wilton Station friends and fellow residents in moving forward, to stop any corruption before it may affect Wilton Station property values, and "see to it that the maximum civil and criminal penalties are given to all involved parties of this deepening and outrageous scam."

"Every day that this situation continues to exist," he claims, the legal liability on the management company and on the board, individually, "goes exponentially up and up and up." Khun had served on Wilton Station’s Board of Directors from 2008 to 2010.

The Board of Directors issued a letter to residents and members on Feb. 29, stating its full support of Janet on the basis that she’d denied any wrongdoing.

"I cannot understand why they have not acted in the best interests of the Wilton Station resident family," Khun said.

"The current Board of your Association has complete faith in the capability and integrity of Ms. Ellis," the letter read, adding that the board "has found that the allegations against her do not impact her ability to continue to do an outstanding job for your Association."

Board member Tom Bluth declined to comment on the story, referring SFGN to board president Stanley Howard, who hasn’t responded to several interview requests.

Another individual coming forward is Ryan Kirby, who never lived in Wilton Station, but is so far the longest-standing investor out of all the sources who have reached out to SFGN. He first met Jim Ellis years ago, when he was a house cleaner in his home.

"I asked his opinion about investing, since he seemed to know a lot about it," Kirby said, citing Ellis’ fancy residence.

Within a week, Kirby said, he, Elia, and Jim Ellis were sitting at a table at Capital Grille, discussing investment mechanisms.

"Elia told me that he was a day-trader," Kirby said. "He said that if I invest with him, the returns would be 21 percent. I didn’t know a lot about investing and he seemed very sincere and somebody I could trust."

Kirby now claims that after starting off with an initial investment of $13,000, he wound up giving Elia $68,000, which has not been returned. But the worst of it for him is that he got his parents involved, who ended up investing $18,000.

"Since my parents were going to buy a car with cash, [Elia] suggested they invest with him, and the interest would pay for the car payments," Kirby explained. "They don’t even know this has happened yet...for George to do this and sleep with himself is astounding."

Kirby said he took Elia up on an additional offer to reap financial bonuses if he brought in additional third parties, but now claims those persons also lost money. In fact, a number of those friends of his tried to reach Elia in the last month to get their money back, to no avail.

Kirby is uncertain whether Jim Ellis had anything to do with the scheme. Asked to comment on any of these matters, Ellis has steadfastly chosen not to talk to SFGN, other than once stating he too, is a victim of Elia.

"I’m very mixed about these stories that he may be involved. I don’t want him to be involved, and I don’t think he is. I’ve always trusted Jim. I’ve known him for years, and his daughter Janet," said Kirby. "He’s a nice guy - a very nice guy. I’ve always said ’Jim Ellis would give you the shirt off his back.’ Up until all of this happened, that’s honestly how I felt."

Ellis had always advised Kirby to put as much money as he could with Elia, nudging him and pointing out his own house and cars were products of his Elia investments, Kirby said.

"I know that Jim put most of his money with George - he told me a couple times through the years - he would sometimes say [with a laugh] ’Oh, I gave more money to George and now I’m broke.’"

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