Conman Russell Dwayne Lewis, who posed as billionaire rabbi-astrologer, gets eight and a half years in prison for stealing $3.8 million from a widow with four children: Fraudster claimed to have worked for the CIA and made a false offer of $290 million on Lord & Taylor
- Lewis, 53, defrauded millions of friends and employees between 2016 and 2020
- He used false names and told lies about his background, at one point claiming he had a PhD and had worked for the CIA
- He claimed he used his astrological skills to help pick the jury for the 1995 OJ Simpson murder trial
A conman who posed as a billionaire rabbi astrologer to defraud victims – including a widow with four children – of $3.8 million has been jailed for eight and a half years.
Russell Dwayne Lewis, 53, told “increasingly fantastic and outrageous lies,” including allegedly making a bogus $290 million offer to buy department store Lord & Taylor in his schemes to defraud friends and employees.
He was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain to 102 months in prison for fraud between 2016 and 2020. He also must pay $3.8 million in restitution.
Lewis used a number of aliases and stolen identities – including Ari Getz and Clifford Ari Getz Cohen – to pose as a billionaire businessman and convince people to “invest” in his schemes.
Despite graduating from high school in Texas, his victims claim he told them he grew up in London, earned a doctorate in theoretical mathematics and statistics, and ran a secret family investment firm, Neviim Equity, in Beverly Hills.
Lewis is said to have made a false bid of $290 million for the struggling department store Lord & Taylor
He also falsely claimed to be a rabbi and boasted that he was worth between $10 billion and $30 billion on several occasions, according to court documents.
Prosecutors alleged he stole the identity of a man named Clifford Getz, forged a passport and used the Social Security number of a 13-year-old Ohio boy.
He told his victims ‘brazen lies’, claiming to have worked for the CIA, Secret Service and LAPD and that he was an expert astrologer and had used his knowledge to help assemble the jury for the OJ Simpson murder trial from 1995.
Using his false identity, he defrauded a businessman of more than $3 million and a widow of more than $550,000, driving them both “into poverty and bankruptcy,” prosecutors said.
He met the widow with four children in 2016 through his so-called astrological reading services. She paid Lewis for a lecture and he provided her with advice for several months.
He allegedly told her he was a billionaire and that it was “in her diagram” to get her mortgage paid off, convincing her to send him about $555,000 to “invest” him.
Prosecutors said, “In reality, no such investment opportunity existed, and Lewis spent the Victim-2 money on personal expenses, including office supplies that facilitated and promoted Lewis’ other schemes.”
Lord & Taylor discovered the offer was bogus and the deal fell through. The company was ultimately purchased for just $12 million
Then in 2020, Lewis placed a bogus $290 million bid to buy struggling department store Lord & Taylor after it filed for bankruptcy.
According to prosecutors, the bid resulted in “weeks of due diligence processes, legal discussions and negotiations” and cost the company thousands of dollars.
Lewis is said to have sent the company a ‘fraudulent bank letter’ claiming to be from an international bank, stating that they held millions of euros on Lewis’s behalf.
The company contacted a bank representative, who told them the letter was fraudulent and the deal was never completed.
Lewis never profited from the deal, so the charges involving Lord & Taylor were dropped under Lewis’ plea deal with prosecutors.
US Attorney Damian Williams said: ‘Russell Dwayne Lewis orchestrated a sophisticated fraud and stolen identity scheme to engage in a pattern of serial fraud, attempting to defraud friends, associates and a major corporation by lying about his identity, wealth and business activities.
“As today’s verdict shows, serial fraudsters like Lewis will be caught and brought to justice for their crimes.”
Mr. Lewis’ attorney, Julie Rendelman, said, “Mr. Lewis has taken responsibility for the crimes he committed and has expressed remorse for the harm he caused his victims.”