Defendant Sentenced to up to Seven Years for Operating a Ponzi Scheme, Stealing Almost $1 Million from Nine Victims


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Defendant Sentenced to up to Seven Years for Operating a Ponzi Scheme,

Stealing Almost $1 Million from Nine Victims

Defendant Told Victims that She Would Buy Discounted Properties

For Them at a Private Auction, Which Did Not Exist

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a defendant has been sentenced to 3 ½ to 7 years in prison for stealing approximately $959,000 from nine victims in a fraudulent real estate investment scheme in which victims were told their money would be used to purchase discounted Brooklyn properties at a private auction. Instead, no properties were ever purchased, and the defendant reimbursed some money to older investors using money from more recent investors.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With today’s sentencing this defendant has been brought to justice. The defendant sought to take advantage of Brooklyn’s rising real estate values to steal money from investors. I would caution individuals to carefully consider with whom they invest their savings.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Regine Norman, a.k.a., Regine Ellis, 69. She was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to 3 ½ to 7 years in prison. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution totaling $842,000. She pleaded guilty to six counts of second-degree grand larceny and three counts of third-degree grand larceny on January 31, 2024.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between May 2018 and September 2020, the defendant engaged in a real estate fraud scheme in which she told her victims that she had access to buy properties located in Brooklyn and in the surrounding New York area, at a discount, usually by falsely claiming that she was a member of a private real estate auction. She then convinced her victims to wire her money for down payments on the properties.

After obtaining the down payment, the defendant provided her victims with fraudulent contracts of sale, which often included the forged signature of the actual property owner, and never used the funds to purchase any property. Among the properties were more than a dozen located in Brooklyn.

Furthermore, according to the investigation, the Department of State has no record of any business entity called “NY Private Auction Inc.,” the private auction company the defendant claimed to be a member of. The defendant provided her victims little information about the private auction, telling many victims that they could not attend or speak to anyone at the auction because only members had access.

Moreover, the actual owners of the various properties the defendant claimed were being auctioned never put their properties up for sale at auction and never retained the defendant as a broker or agent with the authority to buy or sell their properties.

Over the course of the defendant’s scheme, several victims suspected they had been defrauded and repeatedly demanded the defendant return their money. The defendant, after holding on to victims’ money for an extended period of time, returned the full amount of the stolen funds to four victims using money stolen from more recent victims and paid a portion of the stolen funds to three other victims. The defendant has not returned any funds to seven of the victims.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the Real Estate Fraud Unit, and Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gregory C. Pavlides, Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.