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  • Local businessman behind real estate pyramid scheme enters guilty plea; faces 20-years in federal prison

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Assistant United States Attorney David B. Mesrobian reported to Historic City News today that 68-year-old Daniel Steven Summers pled guilty in court to committing mail fraud.

    Summers, who resides at 601 McKenzie Oak Lane in St Augustine, is facing a maximum penalty of 20-years in federal prison, although a  sentencing date has not yet been set.

    According to court documents, Summers owned a Jacksonville-based company called “Realty E Vest” and “IHT Realty Group”, which operated an internet crowdfunding platform for real estate development projects.

    The Florida Real Estate Commission reports that Summers also holds an inactive real estate sales associate license.  He sought to develop the Realty E Vest platform through another business, “E Vest Technology”.  His objective was to eventually license the software platform to investors who wanted to manage their own crowdfunding businesses.

    Individuals invested in projects by wiring funds to Realty E Vest, where the funds were supposed to be held in escrow until the project met its crowdfunding goal.  If a project failed to meet its goal, Summers promised to return the investors’ funds.

    When several Realty E Vest crowdfunding projects failed to fully fund, Summers intentionally kept the investors’ money and misappropriated it to fund the ongoing operations of his companies, including paying employee salaries.

    • Summers gave these victims the illusion that they had successfully invested in these projects by paying investors purported investment returns for the failed projects via mailed checks or wire transfers.
    • Summers also repaid the investments of some victims who had complained after learning the crowdfunding projects had failed to fund. 
    • However, the money funding these payments was not derived from the real estate developers or any legitimate investment activity; instead, it was derived from victims’ principal investments in other crowdfunding ventures and equity investments.

    The United States is also seeking the forfeiture of $744,910 from Summers; enrichment the government says he gained by committing the fraud. The final amount of restitution due to victims will not be determined until a later date.

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