The Case of Jennifer Wilkov, The Government vs. The Investor
Jennifer Wilkov is Financial Planner that was jailed at Riker's Island for giving bad investment advice. Now that she is free, we get to hear her side of the story. Here is an excerpt:
Just a couple of years ago, I was working as a Certified Financial Planner for American Express Financial Advisors and living with my cat, Figaro, in a leafy Brooklyn neighborhood. The trouble started when a relative recommended an investment opportunity in California — an operation that was buying foreclosed homes, fixing them up, then reselling them at a profit. He'd invested himself, and I followed suit.
At the same time, some of my clients started inquiring about real-estate opportunities, and I asked the compliance officer at American Express if I could mention this one. He said AmEx didn't deal with "hard property" real estate but that I could refer people independently if I filled out the proper securities forms. I did so, then told a few people about the investment, while advising them to do their own homework.
About a year later, in August 2005, I launched my own financial-planning business. Things went swimmingly for the first year, until investors — including members of my family and me — stopped getting any returns on that real-estate deal. So an attorney and I paid a visit to the owners of the California company. After our meeting, the attorney deemed the operation a scam and said I should report it to the authorities.
I did so immediately, in October 2006. A month later, several plainclothes officers confronted me on my street. "You're gonna let us in your apartment, or we're gonna beat the door down," one of them snarled. They confiscated my cell phone, computer, and files, while another set of police cleared out my office nearby. I was stunned, but I thought my stuff might help them nail the crooks.
Eight months later, when I was sitting in my office one morning in a favorite outfit — Ralph Lauren top, white pants, white heels — the police returned. I was arrested and accused of being part of a $1.6 million real-estate fraud, since I'd recommended the investment and had received standard referral fees. (Of course my family and I had lost a substantial amount of money in the con ourselves, but that didn't seem to matter.) After I answered a slew of questions from an assistant district attorney, my criminal-defense lawyer — who, by the way, was from the firm that had unsuccessfully defended Martha Stewart — advised me to agree to a deal with the DA. If I pleaded guilty, I'd get sentenced to six months in jail but could be out in four. "Four months is better than four years, which is what you could get if you go to trial and lose," my lawyer said. I hated the idea of making that deal, but since I was new to the legal field, I took his advice and signed the papers. That was January 2008.
Well, here's my question to Fools: Since Senator Chris Dodd accepted large donations from Fannie and Freddie, and then proceeded to give us the advice that they are OK and housing prices will continue to climb, should we have a special cell for him at Riker's as well? Seems quite hypocritical of our government, doesn't it?
David in Qatar