From Parties to Ponzi: Jim and Janet Ellis Named as Defendants in Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Lawsuit
For the past few months, a number of residents in Wilton Manors have been alleging they were victims of a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by a father-daughter team, working their purported fraud in local venues, such as bars and private parties. Many of the alleged victims have resided at Wilton Station in Wilton Manors.
Fourteen residents have now put their money where their mouth is. They have filed a suit in Broward County Circuit Court, accusing George Elia, Jim Ellis, and his daughter Janet Ellis of multiple counts of fraud and deceit.
SFGN exclusively reported the stories of many of these victims in three separate issues earlier this year.The plaintiffs, including those reported in SFGN, are now suing four people and six companies for eleven counts, all involving allegations of fraud and misrepresentation. The plaintiffs include Lloyd Pagels and Ken Kelley, owners of the local popular country western gay bars, Scandals and the Stable.
The SFGN investigation revealed that Jim Ellis, a local businessman, solicited Wilton Manors residents for investments in stock plans underwritten by George Elia. Dating back to 2004, Ellis, allegedly working with his daughter Janet, a property manager for Wilton Station, was accused of enticing investors with cocktails, drinks and expensive dinners, soliciting them at lavish parties she hosted, often in the local condominium complex.
"By acting as satisfied investors," the lawsuit reads,"Jim and Janet Ellis lent an air of legitimacy to Elia’s scheme." It accuses Ellis and his daughter of vouching for the security of the phony investments, thus inducing a false sense of confidence into prospective investors.The suit goes on to directly accuse Ellis and his daughter as being "every bit as involved in the scheme as Elia himself."
The riveting lawsuit claims Jim Ellis was "well-known amongst the plaintiffs...for his grandiose and lavish lifestyle," thus he was an "accomplice perfect for the role." But he is now accused of making scores of false representations,"knowing them to be false." His daughter, Janet, the suit alleges, used her position as property manager at Wilton Station, and the proprietary information she gained in that capacity, to further the fraudulent scheme.
The complaints and the lawsuit allege that Jim was able to induce potential investors into believing that Elia was a sound businessman, a stock market guru, and that their investments would be secure. Victims told SFGN they were assured of profitable returns of more than 20 percent annually, and were allegedly coaxed with guarantees and assurances from Jim. It was not to be. Investors discovered they could not get their monies back, and no accurate accounting was provided of where their monies had been placed.
This lawsuit is only part of Elia’s problems today, already named as a defendant in a California suit accusing him of a separate $4 million dollar fraud. He had left the United States with his wife, only to return to Las Vegas, where the FBI arrested him in late March, charging him with wire fraud. Elia is now sitting in a cell of the Miami- Dade Federal Detention Center, having been charged with eight counts of criminality by the authorities for his previous investment scandals, known as ’Ponzi Schemes.’
The new civil suit in Broward County, however, now alleges he orchestrated his frauds in concert with accomplices Jim and Janet Ellis, who preyed on gay men, investors residing in Wilton Manors, and more specifically, Wilton Station. It accuses them of following a specific script that arranged for dinners at Capitol Grille, where diners would be given lobsters as a main course, and false representations as an appetizer. Given numerous opportunities to defend their actions to SFGN, both defendants had repeatedly declined to comment.
The lawsuit, filed by the firm of Becker and Poliakoff, accuses not only Elia, but Jim and Janet of eleven counts of common law fraud and negligent misrepresentation. One of the lawyers for the many plaintiffs is Daniel DeSouza, who told SFGN that the number of counts could rise as discovery on the case evolves."The lawsuit is a living document, and is likely to grow," he said.