Self-Proclaimed Real Estate Guru Charged in $3M Ponzi Scheme

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Police say a widespread real estate scam attracted dozens of unsuspecting investors. NBC10's George Spencer has the story. (Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014)

    A Gloucester County man and self-proclaimed real estate expert is accused of running a widespread Ponzi scheme that police say netted him more than $3 million in profits.

    Randy Poulson, 42, of Woolwich Township, was arrested Wednesday morning by special agents with the Philadelphia FBI and charged with mail fraud. Investigators say that Poulson, the former owner and operator of Equity Capital Investments LLC , was actually running a multimillion-dollar real estate scam.

    Poulson allegedly promised to pay the mortgages of distressed homeowners facing foreclosure if they sold their homes to him. Investigators say Poulson obtained the deeds to more than 25 distressed homeowners’ residences through this method, causing them to vacate the homes so renters could move on.

    Poulson then allegedly stopped making the monthly mortgage payments, causing the mortgages to go into foreclosure unbeknownst to the distressed homeowners.

    Investigators say Poulson also successfully solicited more than 50 private investors into his companies, including Equity Capital Investments, which purportedly bought and sold real estate. Poulson allegedly told the investors that their money would be used to acquire and rehabilitate properties, which Poulson claimed he would rent out and then sell for a 10 to 20 percent return on the investment.

    Investigators say Poulson provided the investors with fake mortgages and promissory notes for residential properties he claimed to be purchasing, renting and reselling. Poulson allegedly did this in order to give the impression that Equity Capital Investments was a legitimate business.

    Officials say Poulson also gave three weekend-long seminars, several speeches at monthly dinners and various, private tutorial sessions that claimed to teach real estate investing tips to individuals for a fee. Poulson was also the former president of the South Jersey Real Estate Investment Club.

    Investigators say the same properties Poulson used to solicit private investments were the properties he acquired from the distressed homeowners. Poulson allegedly spent the investments on personal expenses and to partially repay previous investors. According to officials, Poulson spent some of the investors’ money on Ray’s Pizza, Acme, Exxon/Mobil, Jos. A. Bank, DirecTV, Hollywood Grooming, Kiddie Garden, Philadelphia Union tickets, American Express, Studio 122 (a hair salon), The Disney Store, Toys ‘R Us, Wawa, and rent-to-own payments on a personal beach house in Ventnor, N.J.

    According to investigators, Poulson’s schemes resulted in investor losses of more than $3 million.

    During a hearing on Wednesday, a judge required a $100,000 unsecured bond from Poulson. The judge also restricted his travel to New Jersey and Delaware.