NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — A New Jersey woman swindled $45 million from real estate investors in a Ponzi scheme and blew some of their money on extravagant excursions to Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos, prosecutors said Wednesday.
A criminal complaint charges Antoinette Hodgson, of Montclair, N.J., with cheating 20 victims in New Jersey and New York by falsely claiming to be a well-connected foreclosure guru who owned dozens of homes.
Hodgson, 58, surrendered Wednesday morning to face federal fraud charges. She was released on $6 million bond during a brief appearance in federal court in Manhattan.
She and her lawyer had no comment as they left the courtroom.
Authorities say between 2006 and the end of last year, Hodgson approached wealthy investors, telling them she could make them fast cash by flipping properties. In one instance, court papers say, she got a $4 million investment by promising a 30 percent return.
The complaint says Hodgson secured another investment after showing a victim 20 homes in New Jersey — only a sampling of a phantom real estate empire.
"Hodgson represented that these were just some of the properties she owned," the complaint says. "She claimed she owned 67 properties."
Records show that since 2006, Hodgson had purchased only 15 properties for $6 million, the court papers say.
Prosecutors allege Hodgson used most of the money she received to repay earlier investors. She also spent "tens of thousands" of investor funds at casinos, gave another chunk to family and friends and used $700,000 to buy a Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Arizona.
"What Antoinette Hodgson allegedly promised to investors seemed too good to be true and that's because it was," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.