Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that Cesar Pina had been charged with one count of wire fraud for running a Ponzi-like scheme that involved him taking millions of dollars in investments to supposedly invest in flipping houses that he did not actually own.
“As alleged in the complaint, Pina exploited celebrity status and social media to develop a devoted following of potential victims,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in a statement. “Promising returns that were too good to be true, Pina allegedly defrauded dozens of people of millions of dollars.”
Pina frequently partnered with DJ Envy, a co-host of the massively popular syndicated radio show “The Breakfast Club,” to give seminars on real estate investment. Envy also frequently used his airtime to promote Pina’s allegedly fraudulent home-flipping venture.
“We’ve helped so many people, not just regular people, but celebrities, athletes, executives,” the DJ, RaaShaun Casey, has said on the morning radio show.
Through his association with Envy, Pina garnered a large social media following and leveraged it to attract more investors.
According to evidence presented in court documents, Pina often promised 20 percent to 45 percent returns on investment within five months. But instead of using investors’ money to purchase and rehab homes, he allegedly used his victims’ investments to pay off prior victims and spent their funds on personal purchases.
Pina faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He was released on a $1 million bond after appearing in federal court in Newark this week.
Envy has insisted he is himself a victim of Pina.
“[Envy] is a victim, just like the other alleged victims are in connection with the scam,” Massimo D’Angelo, Envy’s attorney, told NBC.
Speaking on his radio show this week against the advice of his attorneys, Envy echoed that line and insisted he never saw a dime from Pina’s scheme.
“I gave him a lot of money, that I didn’t see a dollar of returned,” Envy said. “But for any to say I was involved — that’s totally not true, I would never.”