A portfolio manager and senior independent executive advisor at a Secaucus-based real estate fund used a sham loan document to defraud an investor out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachel Honig announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Thomas Nicholas Salzano, also known as Nick Salzano, of Secaucus, was charged by complaint with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, Honig said in a statement.
Salzano appeared by videoconference on Thursday, March 4th before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre and was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond.
Salzano was employed at National Realty Investment Advisors (NRIA), a private real estate management fund with a purported $1.25 billion in assets under management as of 2021.
In May 2018, Victim 1 purchased three purported units in NRIA’s real estate investment fund for $150,000, after hearing an advertisement for the fund on the radio, according to the criminal complaint.
Individual 1, a vice president and senior independent project manager at NRIA, offered Victim 1 a guaranteed 6 percent return for each unit purchased, paid monthly, for the first two to two-and-a-half years of the five-year term, and the potential of greater guaranteed returns after the initial period.
Near the end of 2018, Individual 1 approached Victim 1 about a supposed new opportunity to become a joint venture partner with NRIA in a property in North Bergen allegedly owned by NRIA.
According to Individual 1, the minimum investment was $300,000, and Victim 1 could use her original $150,000 investment in the NRIA fund toward the required $300,000 investment in the North Bergen property.
Victim 1 asked Individual 1 for more information on the North Bergen property. Individual 1 sent Victim 1 materials purporting to show that NRIA intended to obtain a $25 million bank loan on the property, described as “a ground up condo project.”
Victim 1 then asked for information on the loan and Individual 1 referred Victim 1 to Salzano.
On January 17th, 2019, Salzano emailed Victim 1 a purported letter of intent (LOI) from Lender 1, a loan provider for estate investors and developers, purportedly signed by Victim 2, the chief executive officer of Lender 1.
The LOI, sent by Salzano on February 15th, 2019, was fraudulent. A representative later confirmed that the letter was fraudulent and Victim 2’s signature was forged.
As a result, Salzano altered his original email to Victim 1, which was below the February 19th, 2019 email, to falsely make it appear as though he was only sending Victim 1 a sample draft of an LOI by adding capitalized words to his original email.
“This took a day to clear release OF A SAMPLE DRAFT OF WHAT IT COULD LOOK LIKE FOR A LENDER LIKE [Lender 1] on but its a great project and a great loan.”
The wire fraud charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
The aggravated identity theft charge is punishable by a mandatory sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed.