Bankrupt Las Vegas developer pleads guilty in federal case
24 August 2012
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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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