A Florida man known for his sports-related philanthropy pleaded guilty Wednesday to running a multistate Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say left investors with up to $100 million in losses.
Nevin Shapiro pleaded guilty in New Jersey federal court to one count of securities fraud and one count of money laundering as part of an agreement that still has him facing up to 17 years in prison at his Jan. 4 sentencing.
Prosecutors say 41-year-old Shapiro of Miami Beach, used a Florida-based company called Capitol Investments, USA, Inc., to raise nearly $900 million from investors who thought they were buying into a wholesale grocery distribution business.
Charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission claim Shapiro promised investors risk-free annual returns as high as 26 percent by persuading them to invest in a "grocery diversion" enterprise — a practice of buying low-cost groceries in one region of the country and reselling them in higher-priced markets.
Shapiro allegedly siphoned at least $35 million of the proceeds for personal use, including $23 million for salaries and commissions for himself, $5 million for a Miami Beach mansion and $400,000 for courtside Miami Heat basketball tickets. He also spent lavishly on luxury cars, a high-stakes gambling habit, and a pair of diamond-studded handcuffs given to an unnamed prominent athlete, according to court documents.