Steven Jude Hoffenberg
|Employer||Towers Financial Corporation|
|Known for||Owner of the New York Post; Ponzi scheme|
|Title||Founder, Chief Executive Officer, President, and Chairman|
|Criminal charge(s)||Five counts of securities fraud, tax evasion, and obstruction of a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry|
|Criminal penalty||20 years imprisonment and fine; served 18 years|
Steven Jude Hoffenberg is the former founder, Chief Executive Officer, President, and Chairman of Towers Financial Corporation, a debt collection agency, which was later discovered to be a Ponzi scheme. In 1993 he rescued the New York Post from bankruptcy, and briefly owned the paper. Towers Financial collapsed in 1993, and in 1995 Hoffenberg pleaded guilty to bilking investors out of $475 million. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison (18 of which he served), plus a $1 million fine and $463 million in restitution. The SEC considered his financial crimes to be "one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history" prior to Bernie Madoff's crimes a decade later.
In the early 1970s Hoffenberg founded Towers Financial Corporation, a New York City debt collection agency that was supposed to buy debts that people owed to hospitals, banks, and phone companies. He was its Chief Executive Officer, President, and Chairman. It was later discovered to be a Ponzi scheme.
In 1987 Hoffenberg met Jeffrey Epstein through British arms dealer and intelligence asset Sir Douglas Leese, who was with Saudi Adnan Khashoggi and Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (Bandar Bush), architect in the billion dollar Al-Yamamah arms deal, Britain's biggest arms deal ever concluded - earning the prime contractor, BAE Systems, at least GBP 43 billion in revenue between 1985 and 2007. Leese told Hoffenberg about Epstein: "The guy's a genius, he's great at selling securities. And he has no moral compass." Hoffenberg hired Epstein about 1987 and 1993 to help with the Towers Financial Corporation, paid him $25,000 a month and gave him a $2 million loan in 1988 that Epstein would never have to pay back. Hoffenberg set Epstein up in offices in the Villard Houses. They unsuccessfully tried to take over Pan Am in a corporate raid with Towers Financial as their raiding vessel. Their bid failed, in part because of the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which ultimately contributed to the airline's bankruptcy. A similar unsuccessful bid in 1988 was made to take over Emery Air Freight Corp.
During this period, Hoffenberg and Epstein worked closely together and traveled everywhere on Hoffenberg's private jet. Hoffenberg began using Towers Financial funds to pay off earlier investors and pay for a lavish lifestyle that included a Locust Valley, Long Island mansion, homes on Sutton Place in Manhattan and in Florida, and a number of cars and planes.
In 1993 Hoffenberg owned the conservative-leaning daily tabloid newspaper New York Post for three months. In March 1993, Hoffenberg's tenure came to a quick end, capped by mass layoffs, a mass walkout on the part of the paper’'s staff, missed publications, and bankruptcy. On July 10, 2014, he married Post All Star News President Maria Santiago after a one month romance. The ceremony was held in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan.
In 1993 the Towers Ponzi scheme imploded, in February 1993 the Securities and Exchange Commission began a civil action against him and others, and in March 1993 Towers Financial filed for bankruptcy. In April 1995 Hoffenberg pleaded guilty to bilking investors out of $475 million. The SEC considered his financial crimes as "one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history" prior to Bernie Madoff's crimes a decade later. In court documents, Hoffenberg claimed that Epstein was intimately involved in the scheme. Epstein left Towers Financial before it collapsed and was never charged for being involved with the massive investor fraud committed.
In February 1994 he was arrested, and in 1997 Judge Robert W. Sweet sentenced Hoffenberg to 20 years in prison (he spent 18 years at several prisons, including FCI Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and the Federal Medical Center, Devens in Devens, Massachusetts), plus a $1 million fine and $463 million in restitution (per the Bureau of Prisons he was released in October 2013). He settled a civil suit with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for $60 million. Hoffenberg is currently paying back all of the above investors' debt.
In 2016, Hoffenberg and some of his victims joined forces to file suit against Epstein, seeking restitution. Hoffenberg asserted in court that Epstein had been intimately involved in Tower's financial practices and had called Epstein the "architect of the scam". Hoffenberg claimed that he had tried to warn authorities about Epstein's illegal dealings for years. But because a judge expressed skepticism about this class action, Hoffenberg withdrew the suit.
In July 2019, following Epstein's arrest on charges of sex trafficking of minor and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, Hoffenberg again claimed that Epstein was his "uncharged co-conspirator" in the Ponzi scheme. Former Towers investors made similar allegations in a lawsuit filed in August 2018. The lawsuit also alleges that the millions in stolen investments were the seed capital for Epstein's hedge fund, which it values at $50 billion.
- "Hoffenberg Pleads Guilty in Massive Securities Fraud: Crime: Financier could face a 25-year sentence. Investors were bilked of $500 million." Los Angeles Times.
- Ward, Vicky (June 27, 2011). "The Talented Mr. Epstein". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on June 12, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Arrest of Steven Hoffenberg Announced in New York" (PDF). SEC News Digest. February 18, 1994. p. 2. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
- Mediaweek. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
- "Businessman Steven J. Hoffenberg To Once Again Publish The New York Post Publishing Inc". Newswire. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
- "Averting a Crisis p. – Newspaper & News Publishing Industry News". Editor & Publisher Magazine. 2011-05-04. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
- "Hoffenberg v. Hoffman & Pollok, 248 F. Supp. 2d 303 (S.D.N.Y. 2003)"
- The Al Yamamah Arms Deals, Compendium of Arms Trade Corruption, Tufts University 2021
- Marc Fisher, Jonathan O'Connell: "Final evasion: For 30 years, prosecutors and victims tried to hold Jeffrey Epstein to account. At every turn, he slipped away", The Washington Post, August 10, 2019
- Cole, Brendan (July 9, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein's mentor says his former protege was ruined by relationship with Bill Clinton: 'It inflated his ego'". Newsweek. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
- Stewart, James B.; Goldstein, Matthew; Kelly, Kate; Enrich, David (July 10, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein's Fortune May Be More Illusion Than Fact". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
- "Steven J. Hoffenberg Weds Maria Santiago In Front Of Trump Tower". Blacktiemagazine.com. 2014-07-10. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
- "Towers Ponzi Scheme Complaint" (PDF).
- Briquelet, Kate; Connor, Tracy (July 15, 2019). "Ponzi Scheme Victims Say Epstein Swindled Them". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- "United States v. Hoffenberg, 1:94-cr-00213 –". Courtlistener.com. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
- Frank, Robert (March 13, 2009). "From Ponzi to Madoff". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
- Eaton, Leslie (March 8, 1997). "Hoffenberg Gets 20-Year Sentence in Fraud Case". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
- Briquelet, Kate; Conner, Tracy (July 14, 2019). "Ponzi Scheme Victims Say Epstein Swindled Them". Daily Beast.
- "Jeffrey Epstein's ex-mentor accuses him of fraud". Quartz. 1995-04-21. Retrieved 2020-06-10.