Bankrupt Las Vegas developer pleads guilty in federal case

Jean Marc Eljwaidi, right, appears in court with attorney Steven Wolfson at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Jan. 21, 2010.

Bankrupt Las Vegas developer Jean Marc El Jwaidi pleaded guilty Friday to wire fraud and agreed to pay restitution of nearly $1.9 million to investors he victimized, records showed Friday.

El Jwaidi for years has been dogged with lawsuits filed by investors claiming they pumped millions of dollars into his proposed real estate development on the Las Vegas Beltway but that El Jwaidi diverted their funds to himself to finance his extravagant lifestyle.

He was arrested in 2009 on state charges of elder exploitation for allegedly bilking an investor of $400,000. The charges were dropped in 2010 when El Jwaidi paid restitution to the victim.

El Jwaidi and his company filed for bankruptcy in 2009. His personal bankruptcy case, involving $19.1 million in debt, remains open. In that case, the bankruptcy trustee sued El Jwaidi charging financial irregularities on his part had hurt his creditors.

In a new Aug. 2 federal criminal case unsealed Friday, records show El Jwaidi pleaded guilty to wire fraud before U.S. District Judge James Mahan and faces up to 20 years in prison, according to the wire fraud statute.

One of El Jwaidi’s attorneys, however, said federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of less than two years and that if he makes the restitution payment prior to sentencing Nov. 29, prosecutors agreed to a downward departure from those guidelines.

With the downward departure, El Jwaidi is hoping for a shorter sentence or to avoid prison altogether, said one of his attorneys, David Chesnoff.

Prosecutors said in a charging document that El Jwaidi legitimately set out to develop his real estate project, but by November 2008 “knew the project could not be completed and from that point forward fraudulently enticed people to invest in the development when he intended to use their investments to pay his personal expenses, maintain his affluent lifestyle and pay extension fees to keep the land from foreclosure.”

The wire fraud counts relate to his communications with investors.

“Mr. El Jwaidi made bad decisions in his borrowing practices and has accepted responsibility for that conduct by way of his guilty plea agreement in this case,” says a court filing by Chesnoff and another El Jwaidi attorney, Chesnoff’s partner Richard Schonfeld.

This summer, El Jwaidi put up websites suggesting he was operating a Las Vegas commercial real estate company called Task Commercial Group.

The websites included photos of El Jwaidi and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson posing together.

The Wolfson photos were removed after VEGAS INC inquired about them.

Prior to becoming district attorney, Wolfson had represented El Jwaidi in the 2009 state criminal case.

The websites also appeared to exaggerate El Jwaidi’s accomplishments as a developer, and some of that information was removed after VEGAS INC inquired about it.

A statement on Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas said El Jwaidi, 44, who had been investigated by the FBI, also potentially faces a fine of $250,000 after his guilty plea to the wire fraud charge.

While the U.S. attorney’s statement highlighted El Jwaidi’s past association with North American shopping mall builder Triple Five Development, that company wasn’t involved in the Las Vegas Beltway project that El Jwaidi tried to develop after leaving Triple Five.

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  1. I have known Jean Marc El Jwaidi for over 10 years. As a small business's owner in the Las Vegas Valley, I have had the pleasure of doing business with Jean Marc on many occasions. I Have always been grateful for his honesty, hard work, and business integrity. I know many small business owners, who Jean Marc helped make it through the tough economical times.

    I have also had the pleasure of knowing Jean Marc and his wonderful family. He is a man of honor and has gone above and beyond for the people of Las Vegas and the business persons he works with!

    Reading this article gives no justice to Jean Marc and to the community of Las Vegas to which he has put all his effort and pride to make it a great place to live and he has given MANY among MANY people countless opportunities to pursue there dreams of owning a business and succeeding.

    Thank you Jean Marc for all you have done for Las Vegas!

  2. I fully support Jean Marc El Jwaidi for all he has done in the past, and eagerly look forward the future. This man has a history of outstanding developments in the western valley (Boca Park, Etc) and has an "unmatched vision" when it comes to curb appeal, workability, client success and supports the local communities these developments serve.

    Las Vegas needs developments and developers that "want to stay here" and raise the standards of living for all.

    I wish Jean Marc much success!

  3. I have worked with Jean Marc for A few years in the past and look forward to working with him long into the future. He is one of the most honest men I have had the benefit of working with. I believe he has always planned on paying all investors in his project back as promised with or without government involvement which has made the process take far too long for all. This city needs more people like Jean Marc too get development started again which brings badly needed jobs.
    I wish Jean Marc all the luck.