Soft-spoken, well-dressed consultant, George Elia, ran an investment advisory business, International Consultants & Investment Group Limited Corp., that apparently produced returns of 4 to 7 percent a quarter for satisfied clients since 2005, through the purchase and sale of stocks.
Used to meeting him for lunch at The Capital Grille restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, little did clients know that he had not maintained an office for the last three years at the West Prospect Road, Fort Lauderdale address where his company was listed for the last ten years. The building’s owner, Joel Marcus, said that Elia used to be called the ‘phantom’ due to his infrequent visits to his office, which was in fact little more than a desk with mail piling up frequently.
Starting spring 2011, Michael Imbesi, whose family invested their savings with George Elia, became worried when distributions of money started getting delayed, and Elia could only offer excuses in explanation. The family then asked for a refund of their principal investment amount of $250,000 but Elia just stalled, offered more excuses, and stopped showing up at the restaurant.
In October the Imbesi family filed a $4 million suit against George Elia, alleging that he ran “a massive Ponzi scheme”, and that he had shown fake financial paperwork. Attorneys for Imbesi took a deposition from Elia in November, but after answering a few questions he invoked his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. Five bank accounts of various Elia businesses were frozen by Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips in response to an emergency injunction filed by Imbesi’s attorneys.
According to court records, a scrutiny showed that funds were irregularly drained from the accounts via large transfers that were made to companies controlled by Elia’s wife, cash withdrawals of over $242,000 between 2010 and 2011, and for personal payments on high-end automobiles, mortgages and various services and utilities.
Elia is now under state investigation as confirmed by the Office of Financial Regulation; investors from Wilton Manors also confirmed that they had been questioned by FBI agents in the matter.
In January, the Elia’s moved out of their house on Northeast 31st Avenue after securing a third mortgage of $125,000. Before moving they sold the house for $600,000 to their long-time real estate agent, who says that, since the sale, two people have come to the house looking for Elia.