Hedge fund manager Mark Malik, who faked his own death committed no crime his lawyer said.
Mark Malik, a New York hedge fund manager who allegedly faked his death and likened himself to a werewolf to intimidate an investor, may have been “desperate” and “immoral,” but he did not commit a crime, his lawyer said Tuesday.
“He did a lot of bad things and wrong things and immoral things, perhaps. He didn’t intend to steal,” his lawyer Richard Verchick told a jury that will decide his fate in New York State Supreme Court.
“He misappropriated funds, that’s completely clear. But he’s not charged with that,” Verchick said.
Malik, 33, stands accused of perpetrating an elaborate scheme over four years to steal money from unsuspecting investors to spend on jewelry, electronics and even a dating web site. He did this by lying about his investment returns, his Harvard education and his Wall Street expertise, Assistant New York Attorney General Shanon LaCorte told the jury Tuesday.
In February, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission, accused Malik, who was born Moazzam Malik, of stealing close to $850,000 from more than a dozen foreign and domestic investors starting in 2011.
On Tuesday, Malik’s lawyer admitted he misappropriated funds and “puffed up his resume,” but said these failings fall short of grand larceny, one of the many charges against him.
Verchick also conceded that his client’s behavior grew “weirder and stranger” over time. But he attributed that to Malik’s desperate attempt to avoid failure rather than to cover up a crime — as the government has alleged.
Malik, who sat silently through the first day of trial in beige pants and a brown sweatshirt, once faked his own death to avoid repaying investors, according to the government. In September 2013, a fictitious employee named Courtney sent an e-mail to an investor who had been asking for his money back to report that they delay was because Malik had died.
“Mr. Malik has been (sic) passed away with the heart attack after accident. We will dissolve the fund shortly,” the e-mail said.
In another bizarre incident, Malik emailed an investor a video of a werewolf movie along with the comment: “that’s what I think I am,” the SEC said. Malik did this to intimidate the investor, who was seeking his money back, according to the SEC.
One of Malik’s former investors, a New York real estate agent named William Breedlove, testified Tuesday that he started to suspect trouble in early 2013, about a year and a half after he made his first investment.
Rather than meet his redemption requests, Malik made excuses for months, Breedlove said. Among them were claims he was travelling or busy opening new offices, followed by promises that he would get back to him later.
Malik would also repeatedly ask for more money, including through a plan to take his company public, Breedlove testified.
“My aim is to make new Blackrock,” Malik wrote in a Nov. 2013 email shown to the jury, referring to the giant New York-based money manager. The email said the company’s shares would list on the New York Stock Exchange and that the IPO would mean investors get all their money back along with an allotment of shares in the new company.
“One thing I don’t have is time,” Malik’s email said, citing the his obligations to “wine and dine” in preparation for the IPO.
“The evidence in this case is overwhelming, so much so that it is going to crush the presumption of innocence,” LaCorte said Tuesday.