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The Case of Jennifer Wilkov, The Government vs. The Investor



March 18, 2009 – Comments (6)

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

6 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On March 18, 2009 at 1:20 PM, guiron (39.54) wrote:

I did so, then told a few people about the investment, while advising them to do their own homework.

A certified financial planner advised people about an investment opportunity without doing her own due dilligence, and she's mad because she is being held to task according to the law. Then she's upset about the conditions in jail. Welcome to reality.

Whatever you might think of Dodd, he's not acting as a financial planner, with all the requisite responsibilities, legal and ethical. When a politician says something, it's not necessarily a good idea to use it as a basis for investment. 

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#2) On March 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

In fact, she wasn't prosecuted for a failure of due diligence. She was prosecuted for being part of the scam, which may or may not be true.

That is the connection I am trying to make. If you feel that she really is culpable as a conspirator, then what does that make Chris Dodd?

David in Qatar

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#3) On March 19, 2009 at 10:34 AM, kdakota630 (29.15) wrote:

Excellent story.

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#4) On March 19, 2009 at 12:56 PM, patsw (< 20) wrote:

whereaminow, what part of "pleaded guilty" is not clear to you?  She had the opportunity to require the government to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt and she declined.

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#5) On March 24, 2009 at 10:31 AM, nzsvz9 (< 20) wrote:


The analogy is not perfect, but the postulate of someone in a fiduciary role (Jennifer or Chris) advising their patrons (clients or constituents) of the soundness of the going real estate concern does seem solid. This is where things begin to diverge:

Jennifer is a commoner and Chris is one of the political elite. There were police at her door, and there are none at his. I think this is your point. She went to jail and he still walks the corridors of power and influence.

Was she guilty? Only by admission as was pointed out. Is he guilty? No, he has not even been charged.

Did he commit similar acts for which she was investigated and prosecuted? Any reasonable review would conclude, yes.

Chris Dodd and Barney Frank have shown themselves to be consumate politicians, frauds, and liars; but that's redundant.


Known by my dentist as patient nzsvz9

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#6) On October 01, 2015 at 3:35 PM, spootie (< 20) wrote:

Jennifer asked my wife (who was pregnant at the time) to do some emergency work and promised to pay promptly. She appreciated the work we did, and promised to pay us.  

She has owed the money to us for a while, yet never made an attempt to start repayment.  After many attempts to get her to repay, we've given up.

This might spotlight some of her character.   I don't trust her character.  She is not trustworthy.

I don't believe she was part of that scam.  That just doesn't make any sense.  It was way below her.  IMO, she was trying to do too many things (run too many businesses) and got taken advantage of.

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