Florida man impersonates general counsel, law firm partner in fake Epstein probe
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A Florida man posed as a general counsel and another senior-level executive at two financial firms in Manhattan, New York City, and directed personnel to pay for fake internal investigations that were supposed to determine whether there were ties between people in those firms and deceased multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, federal prosecutors have alleged in a criminal complaint that was unsealed last week.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced Feb. 17 that Jonathan Ghertler, 60, of Orlando, Florida, also allegedly posed as a partner of an international law firm in conversations with federal agents who were investigating the scheme.
Ghertler is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of making false statements.
“Jonathan Ghertler impersonated some of the most prominent figures in finance and law to defraud companies of over $1 million and convince federal investigators to stop their investigation into his scheme,” said Williams, who added that Ghertler had been prosecuted for similar impersonation schemes in the past.
Bloomberg reports that Ghertler was charged by federal prosecutors in New York in 2001 for posing as a partner in six of the largest U.S. law firms. Ghertler, who conned them into paying about $200,000, was sentenced to 71 months in prison.
Ghertler’s attorney, Michael Nielsen, didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.
Law360 also has coverage of the case.
According to the latest criminal complaint, which was filed Feb. 14, Ghertler began impersonating the general counsel of a global private equity firm in December 2021 and fraudulently caused its portfolio companies to pay at least $200,000 to fund a nonexistent internal investigation involving Epstein, who died in 2019 facing sex-trafficking charges.
Beginning in May 2021, Ghertler began impersonating the founder of a different investment firm and directed the CEO of one of the firm’s portfolio companies to pay at least $865,000 for a similar fake internal investigation into relationships with Epstein, according to the criminal complaint.
In February, when Ghertler learned that federal investigators were looking into a potentially fraudulent payment made by the investment firm, he posed as a partner at an international law firm that represented the founder. He told the FBI over the phone that the firm had chosen not to report the fraud because it “was ‘made whole’ by the fraudster,” the complaint says.
Ghertler allegedly spoke again with federal agents a few days later, saying “after ‘consult[ing]’ with ‘associates and lower-level partners’ at the global law firm who ‘used to work’ at the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, ‘our position is that, uh, the law states that, umm, you know, if the money was paid back prior to, uh, the crime being, uh, discovered, uh, it’s not a crime.’”
Ghertler also allegedly told federal agents that his “client [i.e., the billionaire founder of the investment firm] has a lot of other issues he is dealing with right now, so this is one he really doesn’t need to deal with,” according to the complaint.
Williams said Ghertler’s arrest demonstrates his office’s “commitment to stopping recidivist fraudsters like Ghertler and to seeking justice for victims of financial frauds.”