'Breakfast Club' host DJ Envy is being sued for alleged investment fraud
Popular radio personality DJ Envy of New York-based Power 105.1 FM has come under fire for his connection to accused real estate investment fraudster Cesar Pina.
DJ Envy has not been arrested or charged with any crimes, but he is being sued by at least nine parties who said that without Envy's vouching, they never would have been scammed by Pina.
Victims of the alleged scheme said they were duped into believing real estate investments through Pina were legitimate based on The Breakfast Club co-host's endorsement.
DJ Envy, born RaaShaun Casey, had for years partnered with Pina – who goes by Flipping_NJ on social media – to host real estate investment seminars across the country and often promoted Pina as a real estate genius on the syndicated morning radio program.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney's office of New Jersey announced the arrest of Pina and alleged he committed a multimillion-dollar real estate investment Ponzi scheme dating back to 2017.
"The defendant ran a fraudulent scheme"
"Pina exploited celebrity status and social media to develop a devoted following of potential victims," U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in the complaint.
Pina, the office said, would guarantee lenders huge payoffs for their investments in purchasing and remodeling projects. Then, once he had the money in hand, he would spend that money instead on paying off old debts and personal expenditures.
"Plain and simple, the defendant ran a fraudulent scheme," Tammy Tomlins, Special Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation Newark Field Office, said in a statement. "They falsely represented the nature of their business and lied about potential investment returns to bilk unsuspecting victims out of millions."
Envy was also indirectly named in the complaint, with the district attorney's office writing:
"Pina partnered with a celebrity disc jockey and radio personality to conduct real estate seminars around the country. Through these seminars, self-promotional efforts, and other marketing strategies, Pina developed a significant social media following."
Pina is reportedly now out on a $1 million bond and is not allowed to leave the state of New Jersey. If convicted of wire fraud, he faces 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
"These are working class folks. These are not wealthy individuals," said Alexander Schachtel, the attorney representing nine claimants against DJ Envy, Pina and others they accuse of being in on the scheme.
"Some of these people lost their life savings."
Schachtel said that by attaching his name to Pina's and introducing the accused scam artist to The Breakfast Club's wide audience, Envy has a responsibility to see the victims recompensed.
"He needs to realize that when you hold yourself out and you tell members of the public who look up to you, who listen to your radio show, who go to seminars that you co-host with Cesar Pina, that hear you on social media, on the radio, in person, describe yourself as Cesar's business partner and tout Cesar Pina's real estate expertise and otherwise endorse and boost and hold yourself out to people as Cesar's partner, that you are attaching yourself to Cesar as as a matter of law," he said.
Schachtel noted that a disproportionate number of those who said they were duped are Black and Latino males – The Breakfast Club's core demographic.
Envy tried to distance himself from claims of impropriety
Since Pina's arrest, Envy has tried to distance himself from any claims of impropriety.
"Cesar – if he took money, I wasn't privy to it, nor did I even know," Envy said on a recent episode of The Breakfast Club.
Envy said that he was speaking against his lawyer's advice and that the reason he began hosting real estate seminars was to "uplift [his] community" and to teach others how to attain generational wealth.
Envy, in fact, according to his attorney, fell prey to Pina's schemes as much as anyone.
"DJ Envy is a victim himself," said Envy's attorney, Massimo F. D'Angelo.
D'Angelo said that Envy invested $500,000 in a parcel of real estate with Pina, on which he never saw a return.
"In fact, he's a double victim," D'Angelo continued, saying that in addition to losing his investment, Envy has been subject to bad actors who are "just trying to make a profit and sensationalize the case by trying to attach his name to it."
The assertion that Envy is a victim in the scheme – not a perpetrator – is offensive to those suing, said Derik Deangelo.
Claimant asks why DJ Envy didn't alert the public until the feds got involved
"That's just the wolf playing victim," Deangelo said.
Deangelo is one of the nine claimants the attorney, Schachtel, is representing in the suit that includes Envy.
Deangelo said that last year he took out a $100,000 loan against his home to invest with Pina. It was sometime this summer that he realized he had been scammed.
"It's kind of taken away my life," Deangelo said.
In order to pay back the loan, Deangelo said, he had to sell off the cars he had been using to kickstart a small rental business. And if Envy had already faced losing money with Pina, Deangelo wonders why the radio host did not alert the public until the feds got involved.
"Now you're playing victim because you see all the lawsuits flying around. Where was all this information a couple of years ago," Deangelo said.
"Maybe if you played victim a year ago and said, 'Cesar owes me $500,000,' I would have never invested with Cesar."
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.