An Indianapolis man pleaded guilty Tuesday to running a real estate fraud scheme that defrauded investors of millions of dollars.
Herbert “Bert” Whalen, 47, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud via videoconference before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo of New Jersey. He was charged in November 2019.
Whalen, who operated Oceanpointe Property Management in Indianapolis, engaged in a scheme from August 2016 to July 2018 to obtain money from dozens of out-of-state investors, prosecutors said.
Investigators said Whalen misrepresented and concealed the poor condition of properties managed by Oceanpointe and created fake leases for unoccupied Oceanpointe properties to make investors think they were rented, investigators said.
Whalen worked with former “Fox & Friends” co-host Clayton Morris, who used seminars and YouTube channels to steer potential investors to Oceanpointe properties. Hundreds of those houses were in Indianapolis and acquired by Oceanpointe through tax sales.
According to prosecutors, Whalen disguised the poor condition of the rental properties and told investors that the unoccupied houses were leased.
Some investors received fake rent payments for the vacant properties so they would think they were leased. Many didn’t learn about problems with the properties until they received notices for code and health violations from public authorities.
Investors who expressed concerns about the properties were paid in part to silence them, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. In one instance, an Oceanpointe employee posed as an investor and wrote on an online real estate message board that the company had addressed their concerns.
The indictment described victims from South Orange, New Jersey, and Plainview, New York, who bought properties in Indianapolis.
Whalen is scheduled to be sentenced July 14. The conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney Tuesday.
“The defendant preyed upon innocent victims’ desire to improve their own financial position through what they thought were sound investments,” U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in written remarks. “Working with our partners at the FBI, we were able to discover his illegal activity and ensure that he will now face justice for his crimes.”
Morris, who co-hosted”Fox & Friends” from 2009 to 2017, moved to the coast of Portugal in 2019 after he was sued by dozens of real estate investors. He claims Whalen was responsible for the fraud at Oceanpointe.