N.I.R. Group hedge fund founder, Corey Ribotsky, filed for personal bankruptcy leaving a whopping $36 million of debt unpaid a year after he settled with the SEC for investor fraud. Today I am reporting for Growth Capitalist that court records allude to the notion that the government knew Ribotsky wouldn’t be able to pay his multi-million dollar fine when they backed down from taking him to trial and agreed to a settlement in 2013.
Long Island-native Corey Ribotsky ran a hedge fund that mainly invested in PIPE’s for over a decade. These are private interest bearing loans made to small cap companies that turn into discounted stock warrants if the borrow can’t payback the loan in a certain amount of time. To simplify what usually happened in N.I.R. Group PIPE transactions the borrow usually doesn’t pay back the loan and the hedge fund gets cheap stock they can sell for cash on the open market which can drag down the price of a small cap stock to unsuspecting penny stock investors. Ribotsky raised hundreds of millions of dollars from upper middle class investors that he met via his charity work, a north shore country club or through introducing brokers.
I began investigating Ribotsky for investor fraud in 2008 while reporting for the New York Post. It took the SEC until September 2011 to finally sue the hedge fund manager for securities violations & investor fraud. By the time the SEC sued, investors in N.I.R.’s once $800 million hedge fund had lost their money, and Ribotsky continued to earn millions in fees managing and unwinding a fund whose valuations were allegedly inflated.
Between investigative reporters documenting Ribotsky threatening & lying to investors, along with internal whistleblowers, the government’s case against Ribotsky was built for them before they sued. Yet at the end of the day we only saw the Securities and Exchange Commission bar Ribotsky from the industry for only four years and collect zilch from him to return to investors.
It wasn’t till three years after the securities regulator sued Ribotsky for stealing millions from his investors that we learn the government is having an impossible time collecting any money to return to N.I.R. Group investors.
On November 13 2014, SEC attorney Kenneth Byrne wrote Judge Bianco the Commission had started “collection proceedings against Ribotsky that included discovery of his income and asset”. The government never got Ribotsky to admit guilt and his lawyer Doug Hirsch told the court the SEC knew before they settled the case in November 2013 that Ribotsky didn’t have anywhere near the assets or earning potential to pay the amount the SEC wanted in a fine (See Attorney Hirsch letter below). Bankruptcy records show Ribotsky stopped making mortgage payments on his $6.8 million loan to Signature Bank in September 2012, which was secured by his family home at 11 Bostwick Lane, Old Westbury, NY. The property is in a llc called ZFL and listed as an asset owned 100% by Ribotsky. Additionally, court records show $549,321.48 in town property and school taxes have not been paid on the home dating back to 2011. On July 19th 2013, months before the SEC settlement, Signature Bank started foreclosure proceedings in Nassau County court against the home. Total debt owed by ZFL to Signature bank is now $7,203,277.78. Any SEC collection efforts would be behind Signature Bank who has a secured claim on one of Ribotsky’s largest assets. A recent order by Ribotsky’s bankruptcy judge shows Signature Bank, who claims they were close to finishing the foreclosure right before Ribotsky filed bankruptcy, will be allowed to move forward with their case and collect funds from a foreclosure auction.
Ribotsky also had ownership interest in another home, 317 Bedford Ave Bellmore NY, which is also held in a LLC. Court filings show Ribotsky testified in a bankruptcy hearing he transferred 50% of his interest in 317 Bedford to Howard Tanney at no consideration. A 2004 bankruptcy exam has been ordered against Howard Tanney to prove Ribotsky did not commit fraudulent conveyance via the home interest transfer.
The government watched reporters like myself, Matt Goldstein, and Nathan Vardi for four years detail Ribotsky’s fraud via on record sources and documents, but only managed to make one criminal arrest of Ribotsky’s right hand guy Daryl Dworkin. In 2010 Dworkin quickly turned DOJ government whistleblower and plead guilty to taking bribes while working at N.I.R. group. The fund was eventually forced into an outside receiver (PwC) taking over in the Cayman Islands who was given some decent access to a document trail of fraud allegedly committed by Ribotsky.
The SEC could have at least deposed Daryl Dworkin in their case, as court filings in SEC v. Ribotsky show the DOJ’s deal with him was he had to testify for the SEC. But the government settled right before the deposition was going to happen. Dworkin’s testimony would have at least helped investors learn what he was telling the DOJ about Ribotsky’s role in the fraud, which could have aided any investor civil suits against the hedge fund manager.
At a sentencing hearing I attended for N.I.R. Group executive Daryl Dworkin on November 5 2014 the DOJ had to admit to federal Judge Dearie they didn’t charge Ribotsky with criminal fraud because they didn’t think they had enough evidence to convict him. For four years the DOJ delayed Dworkin’s sentencing while they worked him for information against Ribotsky.
A month after the Dworkin sentencing Ribotsky finally tells his version of what he did with some of the millions he took from his investors via his chapter seven federal bankruptcy filing. The December 17 2014 bankruptcy shows he’s been sued numerous times but never paid up on judgments rendered by the court. Interest and stock in financial companies Ribotsky owned were primarily transferred to another top N.I.R. Group executive Robert ‘Bobby’ Cohen. The bankruptcy court has ordered Cohen to go through a 2004 examination of some of the transferred stock. Additionally, Christopher Machton of Great Neck NY, who got a $300,000 loan from Ribotsky has been given a 2004 exam subpoena from the bankruptcy court to prove he got the funds and how they were used.
“The government is suing him and he simply moved money around so he didn’t have to pay fines”, is what one Boston-based N.I.R. Group Investor told me after he read Ribotsky’s bankruptcy documents. In fact, in 2012 Ribotsky says in court filings he still made $1.2 million. That was the year he was getting kicked out of his fund, fighting a SEC lawsuit, and investors learned via the receiver the hedge fund assets were super hard to sell and illiquid. Meaning there wasn’t a ton of hope of getting their hard earned dollars back from the hedge fund.
The case was a complete failure by Loretta Lynch’s office (the black woman Obama has put up to be the next head of the DOJ) and an abysmal victory by the SEC – who at least got Ribotsky to agree to stop committing fraud for a few years.
At Dworkin’s sentencing hearing in Brooklyn, NY I got to see how the DOJ and SEC lawyers acted in this case. I was surprised by their egos given how little they accomplished. Government lawyers told Judge Dearie they were working hard to recover money for investors but they simply haven’t been able to do it. After the hearing I cornered SEC attorney Kenneth Byrne and a little man with horn rimmed glasses who was running the DOJ case to ask them face to face how they felt about their inability to get justice for investors and collect any money. DOJ attorney Daniel A. Spector scowled at my question and instead of answering it demanded to know my name and who I report for. I said my name was Teri Buhl and you should clearly know who I report for now. (Spector’s predecessor who started the NIR Group case had interviewed me in 2009 to get help finding NIR investors Ribotsky had lied to so I know the DOJ had been reading my reporting.) Attorney Spector’s ego kicked in and gave me a smug look saying they can’t comment on the case except what I heard them say in court. Now after a case is over the DOJ can comment and usually issues a press release. But in this case the PR girl for the DOJ admitted since there was no jail time for Dworkin there wouldn’t be a public comment. Meaning they didn’t want to promote a case that got so little for investors.
As I watched the SEC attorney and the DOJ boys leave the court room and slink into the elevator I did something I rarely do when asking subjects of a story questions. I asserted my opinion. I looked them both in the eye and said, “You should be ashamed of yourself for not doing more for the defrauded investors. You had this case handed to you an a platter.”
Attorney Spector’s rebuttal was silence and later in the day he refused to get his press person to answer how much Dworkin was ordered by the judge to pay in a forfeiture bond. The bond was ordered in court but the amount was not mentioned. This was public record and they had to answer my reporter question. Instead they stonewalled me and we had to wait a few days to print the news of Dworkin’s sentencing at Growth Capitalist until all the court documents from the hearing were filed online. Dworkin received NO jail time, no penalty fine for his three felony convictions, and only a forfeiture bond to give back the $400,000 he had taken in bribes to bring PIPE deals to N.I.R. Group. And to this day we don’t know if the government will even collect that from him given he can’t earn big money working on Wall Street any more and he told the court his home is in foreclosure.
For those of you familiar with Ribotsky I have uploaded a copy of his unsecured creditors. Tom Sporkin, securities attorney at Buckley Sandler who was a former SEC enforcement lawyer, told me it is very hard to get a bankruptcy court to forgive a government fine so Ribotsky will technically still be liable for the $14.5 million the SEC is supposed to extract from him. But chances of that happening are zero to none in my view. I’d expect Ribotsky to end up moving to the Cayman Islands. A place one of his former best friends told me he often took a private jet to and visited an off-shore bank; after he’s done telling an American bankruptcy court he has no money to pay $36 million back.
Ribotksy attorney Doug Hirsch letter to Judge in SEC case over lack of ability for Ribotsky to ever pay SEC fine.
Ribotsky List of Bankruptcy Creditors