The head of an investment firm who claimed to have access to shares in tech companies like Uber Inc. and Twitter Inc. ahead of their initial public offerings admitted swindling investors out of more than $18 million.
Fred Elm, 51, the founder of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Elm Tree Investment Advisers, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud charges in Manhattan federal court Friday, agreeing to forfeit more than $8.3 million.
Prosecutors have agreed to seek a maximum prison term of 17½ years and a fine of no more than $400,000 when Elm is sentenced on Aug. 7.
According to their 2016 indictment, Elm, also known as Frederic Elmaleh, and Elm Tree executive Ahmad Naqvi lured investors by claiming they had contacts at tech venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital who could give them access to pre-IPO shares.
Along with Uber and Twitter, Elm and Naqvi also touted their ability to get investors into in-demand companies like Alibaba Group Holdings Inc. and Square Inc.
A large portion of the money they collected from more than 50 investors wound up going to personal spending by the two men. Elm bought a $1.75 million house, $130,000 worth of jewelry and luxury cars worth $300,000, including a Bentley and a Maserati.
Elm and Naqvi invested around $7 million of the money, though not in the tech companies they claimed. Their firm never made a profit and lost almost $4 million in 2014.
Naqvi was arrested in Canada, extradited to the U.S. in November and pleaded guilty earlier this month. He faces as long as five years in prison when he’s sentenced June 29. Elm fled to Canada in June 2017, a week before he was originally scheduled to plead guilty, and was extradited in January.
The case is U.S. v Elm, 16-cr-356, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.