Investment Hyped by Bill O’Reilly Was Ponzi Scheme, Feds Say

For years, National Realty Investment Advisors promised their clients an easy way to get rich. And they had bold-faced names like Bill O’Reilly and Lawrence Taylor making their case.

After investing a few thousand dollars, the New Jersey-based group focused on high-end real estate in gentrifying neighborhoods claimed, clients might see returns of at least 12 percent. The message was repeated in thousands of emails, on huge billboards at the Lincoln and Holland tunnel, and even radio ads featuring the former the Fox News host and ex-NFL star.

But on Thursday, prosecutors alleged that the investment company’s president and an associate were in fact participating in a brazen $650 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey announced an 18-count indictment, including charges of securities and wire fraud, against Thomas Nicholas Salzano and Rey E. Grabato II for their role in the almost four-year-long alleged scheme. The pair also allegedly tried to evade $26 million in taxes.

Neither O’Reilly nor Taylor—nor any other celebrity endorser—was charged with any offenses, and prosecutors did not indicate one way or the other whether they were aware of the firm’s alleged web of deceit. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday also charged NRIA and four of its former executives—including Salzano and Grabato—with bilking 2,000 investors by falsely promising to use their money to buy and develop real estate properties. The group solicited investigators with promises of returns “of up to 20 percent.”

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