The FBI on Wednesday arrested an accused swindler from Englewood who scammed at least three families out of $1.5 million with a phony cosmetics investment scheme, federal authorities said.
Matthew Benjamin, 53, used the money for car and house rental payments, food, international travel, legal fees, technology equipment and summer camp tuition for family members, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Benjamin told the victims that his company, Clear Solutions Group, had lucrative contracts to purchase closeout or excess cosmetic inventory from one company that he planned to sell that another, Carpenito said.
He said he had access to these closeout goods through his contacts in the cosmetics and fragrance industry, “which he purportedly made through his work at his family’s cosmetic wholesale and distribution business prior to starting Clear Solutions Group,” the U.S. attorney said.
“Instead of investing the money as he promised, Benjamin misappropriated the investor’s money for his own use and benefit,” Carpenito said.
Benjamin gave them bogus purchase orders, invoices, promissory notes and bank records that showed inflated assets of Clear Solutions Group, as well as supposed records of the investors’ profits, he said.
He also told certain investors that “portions of their profits on the investment contracts were being reinvested in additional deals to purchase and sell cosmetics, which in turn would generate more profits,” Carpenito said.
“From time to time, Benjamin made payments to the investors that were purportedly their profits on [non-existent] cosmetics contracts,” he said.
This allowed him to keep the scam going, which “funded Benjamin’s and his family’s lifestyle,” the U.S. attorney said.
Federal authorities charged Benjamin with wire and securities fraud.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kozar of his Economic Crimes Unit in Newark is handing the case for the government.
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