By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A son-in-law of indicted former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pleaded guilty on Monday to operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of nearly $6 million over seven years.
Marcello Trebitsch, 37, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to securities fraud, three months after authorities first accused him of using investment funds to benefit himself and to repay other investors.
"I'm sorry for what I have done, and I apologize to the court and to my family," Trebitsch said in court.
Trebitsch, a Brooklyn resident, co-owned investment fund Allese Capital LLC with his wife, Michelle Trebitsch, a daughter of Silver, who had been one of New York state's most powerful politicians until he was hit with corruption charges in January.
Prosecutors said that from 2007 to 2014, Marcello Trebitsch solicited more than $8 million from four investors to be invested in large-cap stocks with the promise of annual returns of 14 percent to 16 percent.
Instead, Trebitsch only invested a portion of the funds in securities, on which he suffered net trading losses, authorities said.
Rather than disclose the losses to investors, Trebitsch created false documents including phony account statements that claimed positive annual returns of 15 percent to 19 percent, prosecutors said.
As for the rest of the investors' money, Trebitsch instead mostly used it for his own personal benefit, including to repay other investors.
Under his plea agreement, Trebitsch has agreed to waive any appeal of a sentence below 5-1/4 years in prison and pay $5.9 million in restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 2.
The case appears to be separate from the pending charges against Silver, 71, who resigned as speaker after being first accused of corruption in January but remains the assemblyman for Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Prosecutors accuse Silver of using his position at a law firm to conceal more than $3 million earned referring asbestos sufferers to the firm from a doctor whose research received secret benefits, including $500,000 in state grants.
Silver also received $700,000 by steering real estate developers with business before the legislature to another law firm, prosecutors said.
Silver has pleaded not guilty to charges including honest services mail and wire fraud and extortion. He is scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 2.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)