Ex-Owner in $146 Million Elder Care Default Is Charged in Ponzi Case

A Chicago-area rabbi, who formerly owned a nursing home chain at the heart of the biggest default in the history of a federal mortgage-guarantee program, has been indicted by federal authorities on charges he bilked millions of dollars from investors.

The indictment against Zvi Feiner and a business partner, Erez Baver, is the latest chapter in the yearslong saga involving the Rosewood Care Centers chain of nursing homes, which are mainly in the Chicago suburbs.

The $146 million default in 2018 was the worst ever for a program that insures mortgages on roughly 15 percent of the nation’s nursing homes. In the aftermath, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the mortgage guarantee program, tightened some of its underwriting and review processes.

The Rosewood chain — which has been renamed by the new owners — was part of a network of nursing homes that Mr. Feiner, 50, and Mr. Baver bought after raising money from investors in the Orthodox Jewish communities around Chicago and New York.

Federal authorities said the two men had misled investors about the financial health of the nursing homes and had run them as a Ponzi scheme, using money from new investors to pay earlier ones and skim cash for themselves. The accusations are similar to those in a fraud lawsuit filed last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission and in investor lawsuits previously reported by The New York Times.

In addition to the wire fraud charges, federal authorities seek to recoup $13.56 million from Mr. Feiner and $3.76 million from Mr. Baver.

Mr. Feiner was arrested by the F.B.I. on last Tuesday, but the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois did not announce the indictment until late Monday. Mr. Feiner has pleaded not guilty and was released after posting $4,500 bail. Mr. Baver was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

Lawyers for the men were not available for comment.

Mr. Feiner paid a $1 million penalty to HUD last year for failing to file several years of audited financial reports required by the mortgage insurance program. He has also reached an agreement in principle with the S.E.C. in its lawsuit.

The problems at Rosewood were so bad that the federal government went to court in 2019 to have a receiver appointed to run its dozen nursing homes and one assisted-living center.

After the receiver was appointed, HUD had to shell out $30 million in fees to pay for upkeep. Greystone, a nursing home lender and operator, bought the Rosewood facilities for $81 million in January.

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