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Ocean County Man Admits to $35 Million Fraud Scheme with Notorious Fraudster Eli Weinstein

Ocean County

By: Richard L. Smith 

Joel Wittels, 57, of Lakewood, has confessed to participating in a complex fraud scheme alongside Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein and others, defrauding investors of over $35 million.AdThis revelation comes as part of an announcement by U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger detailing Wittels' guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court.

The charges against Wittels include conspiracy to commit securities fraud, obstruct justice, and engage in the unlicensed wholesale distribution of prescription drugs.

Eli Weinstein, previously convicted of massive investment fraud totaling $230 million and sentenced to 24 years in federal prison, had his sentence commuted after serving less than eight years.

Upon his release, Weinstein, under the alias “Mike Konig,” co-founded Optimus Investments Inc., through which he, Wittels, and others orchestrated their latest scheme.

Federal officials said the group exploited the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and baby formula shortages to lure investors into funding non-existent ventures.

Wittels and his associates misled investors into believing their investments were funding legitimate deals for COVID-19 masks, baby formula, and first-aid kits for Ukraine.

The reality was far grimmer, with the funds being diverted to pay previous investors in a classic Ponzi scheme fashion.AdCompounding their fraudulent activities, Wittels, alongside Weinstein and others, also conspired to obstruct justice by concealing Weinstein’s involvement in the new scheme and hiding his assets, which were supposed to be used for paying restitution to his previous victims.

Furthermore, Wittels engaged in another conspiracy for the unlicensed distribution of prescription drugs, including insulin, showcasing a pattern of criminal behavior.

Wittels' admission of guilt sheds light on a series of attempts to deceive investors and obstruct justice, highlighting the persistent threat posed by financial fraud schemes.

The sentencing, set for August 20, 2024, could see Wittels facing up to five years in prison for each of the conspiracy charges, along with significant financial penalties.

Federal officials said the case emphasizes the ongoing challenges in combating financial fraud, especially when conducted by individuals with a history of similar crimes.