A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the son-in-law of crooked former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to two years in federal prison for bilking investors out of nearly $6 million through a Ponzi scheme. Marcello Trebitsch, 37, ran the sham investment company Allese Capital with his wife, Silver's daughter Michelle, the company's accountant, according to prosecutors. She has not been charged.
From 2007 to 2014, Marcello Trebitsch took in more than $7.2 million in investors' money, promising to sink it into a variety of investment arrangements. Instead, in each case, prosecutors said he and his wife directed much of it to their own accounts and spent it while sending out statements showing substantial profits. What money Marcello did invest he suffered net losses on, and when clients asked to pull money out, he paid them partially, if at all, out of the commitments of later clients. In all, he screwed four clients out of $5.9 million, according to prosecutors.
Trebitsch pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in July, and could have been sentenced to as many as 20 years. His sentencing guidelines dictated nearly five years in prison, according to the New York Post. (For comparison, a run-of-the-mill gunpoint mugging can net a person 1-15 years in state prison.)
Trebitsch cried to Judge Vernon Broderick before the sentence was rendered, and tried to absolve his wife of wrongdoing.
"I hurt my family. They did nothing wrong. I am ashamed in a very public manner," he said. "I failed because of my stupidity and idiocy."
The couple has six children together. Trebitsch's lawyer Benjamin Brafman claimed that his client was prosecuted as part of a strategy for the feds to get to Silver, who a jury found guilty last month of seven counts of corruption, extortion and money laundering.
"These people picked him, and they picked him for a reason: All they wanted was to get to Sheldon Silver," Brafman said.
Trebitsch's victims included a Rockville, Maryland developer and the developer's accountant. From 2009 to 2014, Trebitsch took in $6.8 million from the developer, claiming that he had the backing of a major Wall Street investment bank and would bring a return of 14-16 percent annually. Over the years, he fabricated reams of account statements showing that the investments were doing swimmingly, according to prosecutors. In 2014, the accountant decided to invest with Trebitsch, too.
The scheme hit a snag in June 2014, when the developer asked for $1.4 million back. During a July 2014 meeting in the lobby of a lower Manhattan hotel, Trebitsch told a mutual friend of the developer that he had lost the invested millions and asked what to do. The mutual friend, a lawyer, told him to hire an attorney. The developer never got any of the $1.4 million, though he'd previously received $275,000 back—of his own accountant's money.
Trebitsch won't be the only person close to Silver to serve federal time. Silver's friend and the longtime head of the Metropolitan New York Council on Jewish Poverty William Rapfogel is a year into a 3 1/3 to 10-year bid for embezzling more than $3 million from the charity. Rapfogel and Silver worked together to keep several lots on the Lower East Side vacant for the better part of half a century to avoid the construction of low-income housing. Rapfogel's wife Judy was Silver's chief of staff.