by Structured Settlement Watchdog
Former Woodbridge Group of Companies Owner and CEO Robert H. Shapiro was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Miami Federal District Court judge Cecilia Altonaga on October 15, 2019 for Shapiro's role in a $1.3 billion Ponzi scheme. Shapiro was handed the maximum possible under the charges of mail and wire fraud and tax evasion in the scheme, resulting in approximately $450 million in losses for more than 7,000 investors, many of them retirees who had invested retirement funds, between July 2012 and Dec. 2017. Shapiro pleaded guilty in August 2019.
Shapiro promised investors returns as high as 10% from for loaning money to property developers, but the real estate was often owned by Shapiro or didn’t exist. When the real estate portfolio failed to generate sufficient money to pay interest owed to investors and satisfy loan obligations, Shapiro and his co-conspirators, Dane Roseman and Ivan Acevedo, used money from new investors to repay previous investors. Shapiro also spent $36 million on lavish items including luxury homes, paintings, wine and jewelry.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that a prosecutor estimated that Woodbridge investors will only receive between 30 to 50 cents on the dollar for their losses.
Stiff Sentence But Only Half as Bad As Scott Rothstein got for His $1.2B Ponzi Scheme in 2010
Defense attorneys argued that Shapiro is in poor health and that the 25-year term recommended by prosecutors would be more harsh than the sentence he would receive for offenses such as armed bank robbery, hijacking an airplane, sexual abuse of a child or even murder. Yet Shapiro's sentence is only half that of federal prisoner and disbarred Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein, whose Ponzi scheme was $100M less. Both Shapiro and Rothstein are likely to live out the rest of their years in prison.
On a side note, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently rejected an attempt by Scott Rothstein to reduce his 50-year sentence for his role in running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, which the South Florida press and others in turn, mischaracterized and falsely impugned the name of structured settlements.
Woodbridge Structured Funding was the arm of Woodbridge that involved factoring of structured settlement payment rights. As far as we can tell, the Shapiro Ponzi scheme has raised concern, but in the end has not impacted investors in structured settlement payment rights sold to them by Woodbridge.