Birmingham Business, Viktor Gjonaj Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
(STL.News) A Troy based commercial real estate broker and investor pleaded guilty today with devising and executing a scheme to obtain money by means of false material promises and representations from victim-investors, Acting U.S. Attorney Saima S. Mohsin announced.
Mohsin was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Timothy T. Waters, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Viktor Gjonaj, age 43, entered a guilty plea to one count of wire fraud before the Honorable Linda Parker, United States District Judge.
According to the facts made public in the Information, in June 2016, Gjonaj believed he had discovered a guaranteed way to win huge jackpots in the Michigan Lottery Daily 3 and 4 games. To accomplish this he had to substantially increase the times he played and amounts he spent. In 2017, Gjonaj began losing more money than he won and more money than he could afford to lose. Rather than ending his gambling, Gjonaj devised a scheme to trick individuals into giving him money by falsely promising them he would invest it in lucrative real estate deals. In order to make the deals look legitimate, Gjonaj created a fake title company and instructed the victim-investors to wire transfer money into the bank account of the fake company.
Gjonaj described the fraudulent real estate deals in great detail and encouraged victim-investors to continue giving him money by disbursing payments to them which he falsely claimed were profits on their “investment.” By early 2019, Gjonaj was betting over $1 million a week on Michigan Lottery games using money fraudulently obtained from victims. In August 2019, Gjonaj’s scheme to defraud unraveled resulting in over $19 million in losses to victims.
As part of the plea agreement with the government Gjonaj acknowledges that his scheme to defraud and to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses and representations victimized numerous individuals and that their losses will be included as relevant conduct in calculating his sentencing guidelines, and by the court in ordering restitution.
“Gjonaj used his previous business successes and relationships with victim-investors to lure them into his scheme with false promises,” said Acting United States Attorney Saima Mohsin. “White collar criminals who use lies and deceit to steal other people’s money will be held accountable for their actions,”
“Viktor Gjonaj operated a multi-year scheme in which he played the lottery with money he was trusted to invest,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Today’s guilty plea is the first step in getting justice for victims who have suffered both financially and emotionally.”
Judge Parker scheduled sentencing for June 15, 2021 at 2pm.. .
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s cooperation in this investigation is appreciated.