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Feds: Real estate developer sentenced to 6 years for $58M Ponzi scheme

A New York City real estate developer was sentenced Friday to 6 years in prison for running a yearslong Ponzi scheme to defraud investors in his luxury real estate development projects in Westhampton, Manhattan and Westchester out of $58 million, federal prosecutors said.

Michael D’Alessio, 53, who pleaded guilty in November to one count each of wire fraud and concealing assets from a bankruptcy court, said he used the money to cover personal expenses and gambling debts and to make monthly payments to investors in a different project, prosecutors said.

“Michael D’Alessio promised investors that he would develop and build luxury properties that would yield big returns," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman for the Southern District of New York. "When the real estate market took a downturn, D’Alessio resorted to fraud. In the end, all he built was a Ponzi scheme that he used to rip off his investors of their hard-earned life savings to the tune of $58 million."

U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman on Friday also sentenced D’Alessio to 3 years of supervised release and ordered him to pay more than $58 million in restitution.

D’Alessio's attorney, Benjamin Brafman of Manhattan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A real estate developer and general contractor, D’Alessio would court investors, including some from Long Island, by offering to sell shares in an LLC, typically named after the location where the property would be developed and eventually sold, officials said.

D'Alessio would guarantee the investors monthly interest payments and a share of the profits from the sale of the property after it was built. But once he got the investor's money, D'Alessio would direct the funds through a series of shell companies he owned and controlled, prosecutors said.

For example, prosecutors said, D'Alessio told investors in a purported luxury condominium development on the Upper East Side that the building would be delivered to him vacant. But D’Alessio knew the property was occupied by rent-controlled tenants who could not be easily evicted, prosecutors said.   

The projects included two in Manhattan, two in Scarsdale and one in Westhampton on Sandpiper Court. D’Alessio carried out the scams from at least 2015 through April 2018.

He took steps to conceal his fraud, including deceiving investors about the progress of some projects and using money raised from some investors to make monthly payments to others in different projects, prosecutors said.

D’Alessio committed a second fraud, prosecutors said, when he tried to hide more than $143,000 in assets to avoid seizure after he filed for bankruptcy in 2018.

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