Kochav, who claimed he worked for the investment firm White Cedar Group, pleaded guilty to theft by deception and money laundering from 2012 to 2014.
Judge Thomas Critchley gave him the option to raise 20% restitution on the amount he owes victims, which would’ve allowed him to apply for early release. However, he couldn’t raise the money and will now have to serve the full eight years.
As reported by the Daily Record, Kochav went above and beyond to recruit investors, “often urging the investors to transfer funds from existing accounts at other brokerage firms.” He also laundered $274,000 of the investment money through various bank accounts.
Rather than actually investing the funds and trying to get a return for his clients, Kochav instead played both live and online poker, took expensive vacations, went on shopping trips and ate at restaurants with the money. He also transferred the intended investment funds to his wife for personal expenses.
If the married father-of-one had hoped that he would earn the money back through poker, he was dead wrong. Probably drawing on confidence from a 2005 United States Poker Championship victory, which earned him $71,820, Kochav started playing in poker tournaments around Atlantic City and Pennsylvania. He only managed three cashes worth $13k in 2013, which definitely wasn’t enough to cover what he stole from investors.
Steve Lee, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said that Kochav’s victims had difficulty knowing that their money was being misused. But he also offered some advice on how the investors could have learned if Kochav was legitimate.
“Kochav’s use of fictitious documents made it very difficult for investors to know they were being victimized,” said Lee. “Had those investors checked with the Bureau of Securities, they would have learned that Kochav was not registered to sell securities in White Cedar Group, and that in 2013 the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) had barred him from associating with its members. This case illustrates the importance of performing due diligence before handing your money over for investment.”