Con artist prisoned 57 months for fake student housing construction investment schemes

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A schemer in Charlotte, who fraudulently induced investors to put money into fake student housing construction projects, has been sentenced to 57 months in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western North Carolina says.

Acting U.S. Attorney William T. Stetzer said in a May 17 statement that Joseph Maurice Deberry, a/k/a Joseph Maurice Dewberry, 57, of Charlotte, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. for orchestrating an investment scheme that defrauded victims of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Deberry was also ordered to serve three years under court supervision and to pay full restitution to his victims.

According to filed plea documents and observations at the May 17 sentencing hearing, from 2016 to June 2019, Deberry fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than a dozen investors.

As part of the scheme, Deberry induced victims, many of whom he met through online dating platforms, to invest in entities with which he was affiliated, such as Pinnacle Investment Properties LLC and Place Capital Group LLC among others. Deberry typically represented to investors that their money would be used to further projects related to the construction of student housing at certain colleges in the Carolinas and other ventures.

To further promote the fraudulent scheme and to induce his victims to part with their money, Deberry lied about his education, employment background, and involvement in prior lawsuits and regulatory actions. He also lied about his previous success in student housing projects, and about how he would invest the victims’ money. For example, court documents show that Deberry lied about his studies at the London School of Economics even though he never attended, and falsely claimed that he had a successful career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, though he never worked there.

According to court documents, instead of using the victims’ money as he had represented, Deberry spent a significant portion of the victims’ funds to pay for personal expenses like rent, entertainment and travel. Deberry also actively concealed from his victims the fact that he was under a Cease and Desist Order from the state of North Carolina, which prohibited him from offering for sale, soliciting offers to purchase, or selling any securities in North Carolina. Deberry concealed this information from victims by, among other things, using the false name Maurice Dewberry.

On June 11, 2020, Deberry pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

In imposing the sentence, the Court highlighted, among other things, the need to protect the public from further crimes of Deberry, who had defrauded a new victim even after he signed his plea agreement. The Court also took into account that Deberry had filed with the Court a fraudulent character letter on his behalf that purported to be from a former NFL player, when in reality the letter was a complete fabrication.

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