NEW YORK (AP) — A son-in-law of former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pleaded guilty to securities fraud Monday, admitting to cheating investors out of nearly $6 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Marcello Trebitsch, 37, of Brooklyn, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court in a written deal with prosecutors that recommended a prison sentence of four to five years. Sentencing was set for Nov. 2.
"I am sorry for what I have done and I apologize to the court and my family," Trebitsch told Judge Vernon Broderick.
Prosecutors said Trebitsch, who is married to Silver's daughter, solicited more than $8 million from four investors from 2007 to 2014 based on false and misleading representations.
Silver, a Democrat who resigned from his leadership position after his January arrest on corruption charges, has pleaded not guilty and said he will be vindicated. Prosecutors say Silver took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks.
Prosecutors said Trebitsch told investors they would secure double-digit gains with minimal risk of loss, but then Trebitsch mainly used the investors' money for his own benefit and to repay other investors after suffering enormous trading losses on the portion of investors' money that he did invest.
According to court papers, Trebitsch hid losses from investors by sending them fraudulent account statements and tax forms showing annual returns of 15 to 19 percent.
As part of his plea agreement, Trebitsch agreed to pay $5.9 million in forfeiture and restitution to victims.
Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman said he'll seek leniency for Trebitsch.
"Mr. Trebitsch has accepted responsibility for the poor judgment he used," Brafman said in a statement. "Mr. Trebitsch, although guilty of a crime, is a fundamentally good man who was in over his head when dealing with a very sophisticated investor, who while defrauded, was nevertheless also trying to 'use' Mr. Trebitsch to further his own personal agenda."
In a release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Trebitsche "ran a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors who put their faith in him and entrusted him with their hard-earned savings. He returned their faith with deceit and self-dealing, lying about his trading losses and using investor money on himself."