CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte jeweler Benjamin Abraham could face decades in prison after being indicted on fraud charges Thursday in connection with what prosecutors say was a $3.5 million investment fraud scheme involving jewelry, precious metals and gemstones.
A federal grand jury in Charlotte returned the 18-count indictment against the 59-year-old Abraham, charging him with wire fraud and multiple counts of money laundering.
Abraham sold diamonds, precious metals and jewelry through his Benjamin Diamonds LLC, Benjamin Jewelers LLC, Global Trading LLC and G & I USA wholesale and retail businesses, according to the indictment.
The indictment accuses Abraham of coaxing at least seven victims to invest total of more than $3.5 million, resulting in losses of more than $2 million.
Instead of investing the money as promised, Abraham used it "to fund his lifestyle, keep his struggling businesses afloat, pay pre-existing debts and to make Ponzi-style payments to other victim-investors" from 2012 until just several months ago, according to the indictment.
Abraham duped people by saying their money would be used for short-term investments in gold and other precious metals, to invest in diamonds and jewelry obtained from estates, and to buy other large diamonds to be sold for profit, the indictment says.
The jeweler lied about his past successes and profits, the security of the investments and their expected rate of return and duration, prosecutors said. He also lied, they said, in claiming to have unique access to estate sales due to his connections and about investing his money as well.
When his victims asked about the status of their investments, Abraham gave "numerous false explanations" and gave them checks from accounts he knew lacked the money to cover the checks, according to the indictment.
Abraham did not reply to email and phone messages left by the Observer requesting comment.