TRENTON, N.J. – A New Jersey man serving a lengthy prison term for running a $200 million Ponzi-style real estate scheme has lost his bid to withdraw his guilty plea and have charges he admitted to in another case dismissed.
EIiyahu Weinstein had argued that the federal judge who oversaw the latter case — in which Weinstein admitted defrauding investors in connection with a Facebook initial public offering — was "tainted" because he oversaw the plea deal in the real estate scheme case.
Weinstein also claimed his lawyer had a conflict of interest because he had advised investors in the Facebook IPO case, which put him at risk of prosecution. Weinstein also argued that the Facebook case amounted to double jeopardy.
But a three-judge panel with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claims in rulings issued Friday.
The panel found the judge's participation in the real estate scheme plea deal was extremely limited. They also found any claims to the contrary were "unsubstantiated hearsay."
The judges also found that any interactions Weinstein's lawyer had with investment customers was based on his belief that the money would be properly invested, not kept by Weinstein. That meant the lawyer would not have faced prosecution and was able to represent Weinstein in the case.
In his double jeopardy claim, Weinstein asserted that prosecutors had split the overall case into two cases so they could tack on more prison time. The judges, though, said the Facebook case involved "different victims in different locations, different time periods, different co-conspirators, and different schemes."
Weinstein received a 22-year term in 2014 for the real estate scheme. He pleaded guilty in the Facebook case a few months later and was sentenced to more than 11 years in that matter.
However, the judge in the latter case ruled that the bulk of that sentence would run concurrently with the real estate scheme term, with just two years of the Facebook sentence having to be served consecutively.