It finally happened. Aaron D. Fischman, the founder and proprietor of Cardis Enterprises, was indicted last week in the theft of $22 million of investor money dating back to 2013. The panoply of charges includes securities fraud, grand larceny, money laundering, and scheme to defraud.
The fraud perpetrated by Fischman and several others began years before that; the total taken from people, mostly here in the Five Towns, is over $70 million. All the while, Fischman davened at our local shuls, generously gave charity to local institutions, and even underwrote sefarim for several noted Torah scholars. It now looks like all of the above was part of his scam to take millions of dollars from people who believed and trusted him so that he and his family could live the high life.
I am one of those people who was taken in by Mr. Fischman’s scam. The Five Towns Jewish Times has been running an ad for the past 18 months asking people who were also defrauded by this scam to come forward and identify themselves. The intention was that as a group, we might be able to petition the government to pursue Fischman’s ill-gotten gains, with the hope of being able to recoup some of the lost millions.
Since the ad has been running, I have recorded information from more than 100 people who “invested” money with Fischman and never received so much as a penny in return. Last week alone, prior to the indictment, I received calls from two people, one from Far Rockaway and the other from Lakewood, who each gave this man $100,000.
That has been the pattern for the last year or so. Some weeks, three or four people call for information about their loss and sometimes it’s just one or two, but rarely does a week go by that someone does not come forward about being fooled by Fischman and inquiring whether they will ever be able to get some or any of their money returned.
Though Fischman is being charged with the theft of $22 million, those involved in chronicling this case estimate that the theft is in fact $70 million or more. All the attorney general needs to prove is the theft of the $22 million in order to imprison Fischman and his associates for many years, during which time they can think about the lives they ruined while chomping on their kosher meals in a prison upstate, probably somewhere near the Canadian border.
There have been other cases like this over the years. But this is personal, and not just because we lost money with this miscreant but because I told him straight to his face that if I discovered that this was a scam I would not hold anything back and I would expose him for what he is. Fischman swore to me repeatedly that it was all legitimate. Turns out that was just one more lie.
The damage perpetrated by Fischman is widespread and deep. On Sunday night, I received an e-mail reacting to my conversation on Saturday night with Zev Brenner about this matter on WNSR Radio here in New York. “I think I was the youngest person to ever have been lured into Cardis and lose all my money,” the young man wrote.
That was a new twist amongst all the stories I heard from people who have had money stolen from them by Fischman and the others in this Cardis swindle. I inquired of the e-mail writer further and found out that he met some of the Cardis “executives” who told him that the best time to make an investment of whatever amount of money you have is when you are young. Of course it is; there was never a bad time to be scammed by Cardis.
The young man told me that he gave them $4,400 he had saved from his bar mitzvah. It was all the money he had. His story reminded me of the young man and woman who accrued almost $50,000 after their wedding and were convinced that they could easily triple their money in a short time with Cardis. As it turns out, the only thing Cardis did with that kind of money was make it disappear. And that they did.
The stories and circumstances of this fraud are endless and, interestingly, almost exclusive to the Orthodox Jewish community. A person I met a few years ago told me that at his urging, his 92-year-old mother invested $150,000 in Cardis stock for what was supposed to be a few months. A year passed and the young man started calling Fischman regularly about his mom’s money. After a number of such calls, Fischman, who was increasingly unavailable over the last few years, finally told the son that his mother’s money would be part of her “yerushah,” her inheritance. If you wanted money dead and gone, Aaron Fischman and his colleagues were the ones to get it done swiftly and completely.
The situations like this are numerous. I have to apologize to the scores of people who called me over the last two years for leaving them out of this essay. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether I am convinced that this was a scam from the start or an investment opportunity that just spiraled out of control.
I’ve thought about this for a very long time, and after hearing from people who entrusted Fischman with money, dating back to the year 2000, without any return, it is clear that this was a fraud and a con job targeting the frum community from the very start.
So what happens now that Fischman has finally been indicted and is facing up to 24 years in prison? Well, one of the other often-asked questions is: how do you spend $70 million? Those asking are true believers that there has to be many millions of dollars stashed away somewhere, like in a sock drawer or some other hiding place like that.
Well, that is now going to be up to the attorney general and others investigating this audacious crime to discover. First, however, the case will have to be adjudicated, with Fischman being tried or, more likely, negotiating a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to lesser charges, helping the authorities to find as much of the money as possible and then being sentenced to less time in prison depending on the extent of his cooperation and the amount of money he can pay to those he scammed.
Allow me to address two more issues relevant to this case:
Do I want to see Aaron Fischman go to prison for a long time as he rightly deserves? No. I think he is a scoundrel of the highest order and a profligate thief. If the law requires that he go to prison, so be it. I’d like to see him help the authorities find the money, which includes his $5 million home in Jerusalem, several homes here in New York in family members’ names, and the money that he gave to shuls and other charities, believing that G-d was going to be complicit in his crime and help him evade the law and get away with all this. That is just more twisted thinking.
Do I feel as strongly as I do about this because I was a victim of the scam along with so many others? The answer to that is also no. But I cannot sit idly by when I have this forum and not excoriate people like him who steal an elderly widow’s life savings or the gifts of a newlywed couple or a bar mitzvah boy.
On top of all that, if nothing else, we should be able to trust one another at least minimally. We should be able to expect that the guy sitting next to us in shul with his tallis over his head is not capable of financially eviscerating us.
As far as the others implicated in this massive fraud, attorneys involved who have also been victimized by Cardis believe that some of the others are cooperating witnesses and have handed Mr. Fischman to the authorities. Aaron Fischman’s day has arrived. The other shoe has dropped. Finally, the jig is up.
Contact Larry Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow 5TJT.com on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.