NEWARK, N.J.– A Passaic County, New Jersey, man was arrested today in connection with a scheme to defraud investors of over $1 million through various misrepresentations and omissions about his business operations and his background, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Gregory Ciccone, 43, of Woodland Park, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with securities fraud. He appeared this afternoon by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre and was released on $300,000 unsecured bond.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Ciccone, who was previously convicted of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, once again orchestrated an investment fraud scheme whereby he obtained approximately $1.5 million from at least 22 investors through short-term, high-interest promissory notes in less than two years. Ciccone represented to prospective investors that his companies, Platinum Travel and Entertainment LLC, a New Jersey-based LLC, and Platinum Enterprises & Concierge Services Inc. (Platinum) were reserving blocks of rooms at luxury hotels, which would later be resold to elite clients at a profit.
Investors were promised 15 percent to 50 percent return on their investments for term periods ranging from one month to six months. Instead of using the funds to reserve blocks of rooms at luxury hotels, Ciccone diverted the funds for personal expenses and, in certain instances, paid other investors to make them believe that their investment was generating profits. When confronted with requests for transparency and redemptions by certain investors, Ciccone failed to honor the redemption requests, made misrepresentations about his inability to honor the redemption requests, misstated and omitted material facts, and provided certain investors with forged, modified, or otherwise fraudulent documentation.
Ciccone did not disclose to certain victim investors before they invested that he had a federal criminal conviction and that the conditions of his supervised release prohibited him from entering into promissory notes without approval of his U.S. Probation officer, which he had not requested.
From May 2019 through November 2019, Ciccone also made material misrepresentations to additional victim investors directly and through Individual 1, who began raising money on behalf of Ciccone in May 2019. Ciccone told Individual 1 about, and sent emails containing, lists of Platinum’s purported “immediate bookings” at various hotels to support his need to raise money for Platinum. Ciccone made these statements to Individual 1 knowing Individual 1 would communicate the information to investors and prospective investors. Ciccone’s statements to Individual 1, which Individual 1 disseminated to investors, were false. Platinum and Ciccone had not secured the hotel reservations, and Ciccone did not use the funds obtained from the Victim Investors to secure the hotel bookings listed in these communications.
Over the course of the scheme, Ciccone misappropriated the majority of funds received from victim investors, totaling at least $1.35 million, by using the money to pay for personal items, such as $54,330 to buy a BMW; approximately $235,000 to purchase clothes, wine, and other personal items; and over $216,000 in cash withdrawals. Ciccone also used investor funds to pay approximately $120,000 to other investors with overdue notes.
The securities fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig thanked special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Mahoney; special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina in Newark; and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s charges. She also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Denver Regional Office, under the direction of Regional Director Kurt Gottschall, for its assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vijay Dewan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
District of New Jersey