04 Mar 2021
Florida private equity manager Elliot Smerling has overseen a growing empire of private equity funds reportedly worth more than $1.8 billion and lived a lavish lifestyle, with homes in Florida, New York and Brazil as well as a collection of luxury cars including a Ferrari, a Corvette and a Cadillac Escalade.
But Smerling resorted to fraud to keep his complex financial operation afloat, according to a criminal complaint filed last week, falsely claiming in a $95 million loan application that a private New York university had invested in one of his funds and forging a university official’s signature as part of the application.
He obtained the loan from Silicon Valley Bank in February but was arrested last week and charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is accused of falsely claiming in the December 2020 loan application that the university, which is unnamed in the complaint, had agreed to invest $45 million in one of his funds and an unnamed New York investment bank had committed to investing another $40 million in the same fund. He is also accused of submitting a forged audit letter attesting to the financial health of the fund and later sending a falsified bank statement from December 2019 showing a $4.5 million wire transfer from the university and a $4 million wire transfer from the investment bank as part of their purported investments.
Smerling was denied bail Wednesday and faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $190 million if he is found guilty.
By Ben Wieder, Miami Herald, 3 March 2021
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