Ruined Fans Point Finger at DJ Envy in Cesar Pina’s House-Flipping Scheme

todayNovember 12, 2023 3

share close

Derek Maldonado, a hairdresser in New York, was looking for opportunities to diversify his wealth when he first heard DJ Envy, co-host of the insanely popular radio show The Breakfast Club, promote an upcoming July 2022 real estate seminar at the Jacob Javits Center.

“DJ Envy has been a big name for a very long time and I’ve been a hip-hop fan my whole life. He’s a big name,” Maldonado told The Daily Beast. “So I tell my pregnant wife that we are going to this seminar because we want to get involved in real estate.”

At the $250-a-head, four-hour event, he was impressed by the lectures from mortgage brokers, Airbnb experts, and the hosts of a popular property podcast. “It was a bunch of reputable people. It felt very legit. Plus, DJ Envy was up there the whole time, hosting the event and instructing people,” he said.

In the end, he wanted to learn more from Cesar Pina, who was described at the seminar as DJ Envy’s business associate and the mastermind behind the real estate operation.

That opened the door to what he now calls the worst mistake of his life: He invested $200,000 to partner with Pina and flip a New Jersey single-family home—and never saw a dime.

Then Maldonado learned he was just another alleged victim of Pina, a soft-spoken New Jersey ex-convict who boasts 307,000 followers on his Instagram account, “Flipping NJ.” Prosecutors allege that for at least five years, Pina engaged in a multimillion-dollar real estate scheme, promising dozens of clients lucrative opportunities if they invested in his expansive property portfolio. He has denied any wrongdoing.

DJ Envy, whose real name is RaaShaun Casey, has not been charged or named in the alleged scheme. He has denied any knowledge of Pina’s alleged misdeeds and claims to be a victim as well.

But several lawsuits against the radio host and victims who spoke to The Daily Beast say they would have never known about the seminars—or encountered Pina—if not for DJ Envy. One lawyer, who represents nine plaintiffs, told The Daily Beast that he has spoken to more than 50 people who claim to have been caught up in the scam.

“DJ Envy’s backing of Pina and Flipping NJ was one of the driving factors for me,” Stanley Acosta, who lost $150,000 of his life savings in the alleged scam, told The Daily Beast. “I listened to him for years; I trusted him. And I lost almost everything because of that trust.”

A photograph of Stanley Acosta with his family.

Stanley Acosta

Pina was in prison in 2005, serving 18 months for credit card fraud and drug-related crimes, when he got interested in real estate and how it could make him rich.

He befriended a New Jersey real-estate developer serving time for political corruption, he explained on a Nov. 2, 2022, episode of the Bootleg Kev podcast. In exchange for tips on how to survive as an inmate, the developer showed Pina the ropes of investing in real estate and “flipping” houses.

Pina said that when he was released in 2006, he quickly landed a job managing mortgages while still in a halfway house. It didn’t take long for him to launch his real estate operation, flipping a three-story family home in Patterson, New Jersey, for a profit of $70,000. Over the next decade, Pina scooped up property across New Jersey and documented his booming business on Instagram.

Prosecutors allege that Pina’s business took a criminal turn in 2017. The criminal complaint filed last month does not name DJ Envy, but prosecutors say Pina “partnered with a celebrity disc jockey and radio personality to conduct real estate seminars around the country.” They note that “through these seminars, self-promotional efforts, and other marketing strategies, Pina developed a significant social media following.”

According to the music magazine Complex, DJ Envy first joined forces with Pina in 2017 to break into the real-estate scene. He was a well-established celebrity, having co-hosted “The Breakfast Club,” the nationally syndicated Power 105.1 show with approximately 8 million monthly listeners, since 2010. The 46-year-old boasts about 2.2 million personal followers on Instagram and has a reported net worth of about $7 million.

Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival.

Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival.

Rich Polk/Getty

DJ Envy began promoting his and Pina’s real estate endeavors and seminars on the show. Pina appeared on the show to discuss his work with DJ Envy, real estate strategies, and his 2021 book, “Flipping Keys.”

“How has the drug game impacted your business actually?” co-host Charlamagne tha God asked Pina on the show while holding the book.

“In the streets, we are counting numbers, we are analyzing what’s coming in, what’s coming out,” Pina responded. “Real estate is the same thing, it’s numbers. Instead of us selling drugs on the block, now we actually own the block. Because we own the houses there.”

DJ Envy and Pina also released promotional videos about upcoming seminars and advice on property investment. Posters advertising upcoming seminars usually showcased headshots of both of them. The pair recruited celebrities, including Snoop Dog, to hype their business on Instagram.

The publicity and social media growth allowed Pina to pull in more clients interested in investing in his real estate properties in New Jersey and elsewhere, prosecutors allege. Pina often promised clients a 20 to 45 percent return on their initial investment within five months, the complaint says. However, prosecutors allege, he “engaged in a Ponzi-like scheme wherein he commingled victim investors’ money and used victim investors’ investments to pay off prior investors and cover personal expenditures.”

Pina, who allegedly defrauded dozens out of millions of dollars, was charged last month with one count of wire fraud and released on a $1 million secured bond with electronic monitoring. Lawyers for DJ Envy and Pina did not immediately respond for comment.

While DJ Envy has not been criminally implicated, he is named as a defendant in several pending lawsuits that accuse Pina of swindling investors under the guise of a golden investment opportunity. (DJ Envy and his legal team have filed to dismiss several of those lawsuits, denying any wrongdoing.)

After Pina’s arrest, DJ Envy briefly discussed their relationship on The Breakfast Club—and explained that he wanted their seminars to “uplift my community” and teach others “about real estate.”

“So I did these seminars and brought industry professionals to all these seminars, whether it was real estate agents from different markets, contractors, money lenders. I even brought to actually show people how to purchase houses online,” DJ Envy said on the Oct. 11 show. “Now, Cesar, if he took money, I wasn’t privy to it nor did I even know. But I do understand how people feel if they did give him money because I gave him a lot of money that I didn’t see a dollar of return.”

DJ Envy onstage during 2022 InvestFest

DJ Envy listening onstage during 2022 InvestFest.

Paras Griffin/Getty

Jose Rodriguez says that the first real estate seminar DJ Envy and Pina co-hosted in October 2018 was at a high school in Patterson, New Jersey, and garnered a crowd of 500.

Rodriguez had already made a name for himself online, helping clients with credit education and repair as “The Credit Dude.” After briefly messaging with Pina about their mutual financial interests on Instagram, Rodriguez said he went to the inaugural event and was impressed by the number of people who turned up, especially since there was no food, water, or breaks.

Shortly after the event, Pina asked if he wanted to join the program to speak about credit repair, and over the next four years, he took part in about 40 seminars across the country and online, Rodriguez said.

The events, which DJ Envy headlined and often acted as the emcee, consisted of a series of speakers who would present for about 10 to 15 minutes. Rodriguez said that the timeline was easily bent if Pina and DJ Envy were engaged in a conversation as guests, who sat in lined chairs, watched.

“They would always say, ‘Do you have a presentation? If you have a slide, give it to us,’ but it’s not like anybody was even really fact-checking it,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes they have like a pamphlet.”

Jose Rodriguez speaking at a real-estate seminar

Jose Rodriguez speaking at a real-estate seminar.

Jose Rodriguez

Lawsuits filed against DJ Envy, Pina, and others say that after the speaker presentations, attendees “were offered opportunities to partner with Pina, [DJ Envy] and his team in personalized real estate investment deals.”

“Members of the Pina network, including DJ Envy, set up booths at which they offered private consultations with seminar attendees as well as meet and greets,” Acosta’s lawsuit states. During the meet and greets and private consultations, Pina also allegedly offered his personal “consulting services” at his New Jersey office “for flat rate fees ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 per meeting and more.”

Rodriguez said the last seminar DJ Envy and Pina hosted was at the Javits Center in July 2022. (The relationship between Rodriguez and DJ Envy turned sour in late 2022. The pair have since sued each other over Rodriguez’s credit repair company. DJ Envy claims he was not paid for promoting the company, while Rodriguez claims that the radio host neglected to adequately promote the business.)

In the audience at a December 2021 seminar at the Javits Center sat Acosta.

Acosta, a 31-year-old executive administrative assistant, told The Daily Beast he went after hearing seminar promotions as a daily listener of The Breakfast Club. He said that he wasn’t too impressed with the lengthy event, saying it was “more of a hype” than a trove of new information.

But, he said, he still believed that the speakers “knew what they were talking about.” So he provided his information to one of Pina’s associates and expressed interest in partnering on a future investment opportunity.

Pina reached out a few weeks later, inviting him to an in-person meeting at his New Jersey office. Before the meeting, Pina sent Acosta a contract to invest $150,000 in local property, predicting he would receive at least $45,000 back after just five months when the property sold. His lawsuit against Pina, DJ Envy, and others also states that Acosta was entitled to interest.

“Although DJ Envy was not present at this meeting, Plaintiff was led to believe by Cesar that DJ Envy was involved as a partner in his real estate business and further that the property subject to Plaintiff’s ‘joint venture’ was one of their partnership properties,” the amended lawsuit states about the initial meeting.

It added that Acosta “would not have invested in the joint venture but for his belief that DJ Envy was involved as a partner in the enterprise.”

Acosta said he was wary of the contract and had a lawyer revise it. After some back and forth, Acosta agreed to meet Pina at his office again on March 9, 2022, to complete the deal. He brought $150,000 in cash.

Stacks of money on a table

A photograph of the $150,000 Stanley Acosta gave to Cesar Pina in March 2022.

Stanley Acosta

“It was money I had saved up from my job, money I got from my wedding, from selling sneakers on the side,” Acosta said. “It was my life’s savings, but I believed this was a safe deal.”

The first red flag came the minute Pina took the money.

“I gave him the $150,000 and I asked him if he wanted to count the money. He said no,” Acosta said.

He didn’t expect to hear from Pina until August, the maturation date of his investment. But Pina did not reach out until October—when he texted Acosta that he was going to set up a time to meet. Acosta called and texted Pina for months for an update, with scant response. Then, in April 2023, Pina claimed that all his “deals were backed up” and that things were “all closing now,” the lawsuit states.

“Around this time, I had watched that Netflix series on Bernie Madoff—and something clicked,” Acosta said. “I told my friends, one of which also invested with Caesar, ‘We’ve been got.’ If you watch this series, that’s what happened to us.”

Acosta’s fears were confirmed in June when Pina blocked his number, he said. It wasn’t long before he started hearing about other Pina investors who lost money. “This deal turned my whole life upside down,” Acosta said. “I don’t have a dollar to my name and I have my children I need to support.”

Like Maldonado, Acosta stressed that he would have never invested in Pina’s company if not for DJ Envy’s promotion and influence. He added that he will never listen to The Breakfast Club again because he no longer trusts DJ Envy.

Alexander Schachtel, a New Jersey attorney representing Maldonado and Acosta, stressed that his lawsuits against DJ Envy, Pina, and others only account for a percentage of Pina’s alleged victims. Another of his clients told The Daily Beast that he gave Pina $835,000 to help flip three New Jersey properties. Yet another lawsuit naming Pina and DJ Envy says two people were bilked out of a combined $1.5 million.

“From my nine clients, their total losses under the contracts alone are about $3 million,” Schachtel said. “I have also spoken to 50 people at this point… and they have told me about their stories, and most of them have shared their contracts with me. I can tell you that at minimum, you’re looking at 50 to 100 victims of this scam and the total amount of the theft of funds is probably around $20 to $30 million.”

The lawyer said he does not know whether DJ Envy should be criminally charged but believes he is civilly liable for using his celebrity to boost Flipping NJ.

DJ Envy has insisted his hands are clean.

“For anybody to say I was involved, that’s totally not true. I would never,” he said in the Oct. 11 episode of The Breakfast Club. “I’ve been on radio close to 30 years, and never in my 30 years time did I do nothing but try to uplift people… And I would never take a dollar from somebody.”

DJ Envy and Cesar Piña on a couch.

A photograph of DJ Envy and Cesar Piña attending Brandon Medford Sales Academy Launch Event on October 04, 2022, in New York City.

Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Brandon Medford Enterprises

Days after he was released on a $1 million bond, Pina addressed his haters on Instagram Live.

“They call me Cesar Madoff—it’s crazy,” he said in the Oct. 24 rant, denying all allegations against him.

He claimed that DJ Envy was “never in the room” during deals and had “nothing to do” with the lawsuits filed against him. “It fucking sucks, bro. It pisses me off that all these people are bashing DJ Envy,” Pina said.

At the same time, Pina rejected DJ Envy’s claim that he was a victim. “That’s the dumbest shit I ever heard in my life,” Pina said about the claims. “He’s not a victim. He’s my partner; he was an investor.”

In a statement to NBC New York, DJ Envy’s attorney, Massimo D’Angelo, claimed that his client invested half a million dollars in one of Pina’s ventures and has yet to see his money. He also said DJ Envy denies any claims of wrongdoing and that he is only being invoked in connection with the scheme because of his “celebrity status.” In an August defamation lawsuit against former NFL star-turned-influencer Tony “the Closer” Robinson, DJ Envy also denies the slanderous allegations and alleges that he is the victim of an online smear campaign.

And while the feds do not directly tie DJ Envy to the deals themselves, victims of the scam are still blaming the celebrity disc jockey for putting them in this position.

“Without DJ Envy, I would still have my money,” Maldonado stressed.

Source link

Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

Rate it

Electro Music Newsletter

Don't miss a beat

Sign up for the latest electronic news and special deals


By signing up, you understand and agree that your data will be collected and used subject to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.