Steven Hoffenberg, Jeffrey Epstein’s Ponzi Schemer Pal, found dead in his Connecticut home after wellness check
Steven Hoffenberg, a convicted Ponzi schemer and former Wall Street mentor to multimillionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, was found dead in his Connecticut apartment this week after a survivor of Epstein’s abuse called local cops to make a wellness check.
Maria Farmer called Derby Police to check on Hoffenberg, 77, after failing to reach him by phone. The two had been friends for years and talked to each other almost every day. “He was part of my family,” Farmer told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “I liked it.”
In Hoffenberg, Farmer saw a good-hearted person who became another downfall guy for Epstein. He was someone who lost his wealth and separated from most of his family after his criminal case. In prison, he became a born-again Christian. Farmer says that in recent years he was one of the few people to support her during cancer treatments. It now appears that he died alone in his modest apartment shortly after contracting COVID.
Derby Police Lt. Justin Stanko told The Daily Beast on Thursday that authorities believe a man discovered at 8.08pm on Tuesday was likely Hoffenberg, but they are waiting for the medical examiner to make a positive identification. “Every piece of evidence, his lease, his papers, his driver’s license … points to Mr. Hoffenberg,” Stanko said.
Stanko said a preliminary autopsy showed no signs of foul play or trauma and police believe Hoffenberg, who was found on his bedroom floor, died of natural causes.
Hoffenberg’s estranged daughter, who asked not to be named, told The Daily Beast that he was not an active part of her life. They met a few times after he was released from prison.
“He spent 20 years in prison,” she said. “I grew up with a wonderful single mother and never benefited financially from her affairs. I had a very good life. He’s not a go-to.
Other relatives of Hoffenberg could not be reached.
Farmer said Hoffenberg was struggling financially but would not accept help. She feared he was declining cognitively and invited him to move in with her so she could care for him. “He would never allow me to do anything for him,” Farmer said. “He only wanted to do for others. He said, ‘Maria, I spend the rest of my life on this earth helping people.’ »
Hoffenberg told Farmer he was ashamed that he trusted Epstein and took him under his wing in the late 1980s after the financier left Bear Stearns. (Epstein had testified that his departure from the global investment bank followed a “breach of rules”; he loaned a friend money to buy stock.)
“The world has lost a true gentleman with one of the kindest hearts and one of the most loving souls I have ever met. He was so loyal. He was always there,” Farmer said of Hoffenberg.
The financier, however, did not always have a glowing reputation.
In 1995, Hoffenberg pleaded guilty to fraud and obstruction of justice in connection with his $460 million Ponzi scheme, then one of the largest in history.
A brash, cartoonish character, Hoffenberg made headlines in 1993 as a potential buyer of the sick New York Post— a deal that was overturned when the SEC sued him, claiming his debt collection company Towers Financial Corporation had inflated income and assets. In 1994, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged him with falsifying Towers’ records in order to present higher earnings to investors buying the company’s securities. Prosecutors said Hoffenberg used the millions he raised to pay off debts and fund his lavish lifestyle.
In 1997, Manhattan federal judge Robert Sweet sentenced Hoffenberg to 20 years in prison for defrauding thousands of investors in his debt collection company. (Before him deceased in 2019, Sweet would preside over Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s libel trial against sex trafficker accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell.)
Sweet also ordered Hoffenberg to pay a $1 million fine and return the $460 million he stole. At the time, The New York Times reported, “In fact, the money is gone and those he defrauded have got back less than a penny for every dollar lost.” His sentence was longer than recommended by federal guidelines, in part because of letters from victims that detailed in court how they lost their savings, retirement and other funds for health care and education.
“I am a 69 year old female who has been a Texas public school teacher for most of my adult life,” one victim wrote. “I invested almost all of my life savings, $112,000. . . . Mr. Hoffenberg took away what would have been good retirement income for me. So, therefore, I have taken up teaching again and I will probably have to do it for as long as I can.
When vanity lounge wrote a profile on Epstein in 2003, two years before Palm Beach cops began investigating him for molesting underage girls, Hoffenberg’s name came up in connection with the mysterious financier and his work for Towers. According to the report, Hoffenberg hired Epstein as a consultant and paid him $25,000 a month.
Three years after his release from prison in 2013, Hoffenberg sued Epstein, blaming him for the fraud and arguing he should help repay his thousands of scam victims.
Prior to his death, the Brooklyn native frequently commented to the press about Epstein and accused the financier of being a “co-conspirator” in his Ponzi scheme. In a 2019 affidavit, Hoffenberg said, “Epstein remained free and used and benefited from the ill-gotten gains he amassed as a result of his criminal and fraudulent activities.”
“He was my best friend for years. My closest friend for years,” Hoffenberg told CBS News of Epstein in 2019. “We led a team of people on Wall Street, investors who raised these billions of dollars illegally. He was my guy, my wingman.
Hoffenberg was also active on Twitter, where his bio still reads “CEO OF THE NEW YORK POST (FORMER), MEDIA, HOFFENBERG KNEW EPSTEIN FOR NINE YEARS, Epstein questions,” before listing his email address.
He frequently posted stories related to the Epstein case and in support of Farmer. He also posted tweets accusing Epstein and Maxwell of being spies. (Neither Maxwell nor Epstein appear to have commented on these foreign intelligence allegations.)
Last summer, Hoffenberg suggested rolling stone that Epstein “moved in intelligence circles” and had worked on projects with Maxwell’s media mogul father Robert over his debts.
Hoffenberg had promised the press to help the victims of his Ponzi scheme recoup their losses by suing Epstein. He said NPR in 2019, “I am the first in line to help victims. At 74, I would like to go to the pearly gates to help the victims.
While some people balked at Hoffenberg’s public contrition, Farmer did not.
Farmer said she tried to report Epstein’s sexual abuse to the FBI in the mid-1990s and lobbied for the US Attorney’s office to hold him accountable years before his 2019 arrest. , the US Attorney in Manhattan has made Hoffenberg a scapegoat for a crime she says was orchestrated by Epstein.
“I became his family and he became mine,” Farmer said of Hoffenberg. “Believe me, he had a lot of people who liked him.”
“It was not someone in his family who suggested that the police go looking for him. It was me who noticed that he was gone.
According to Farmer and his friend Michael Balcom, cops in Derby initially seemed reluctant to check on Hoffenberg when Farmer phoned them on Saturday. “They said, ‘We’re not doing a wild goose chase,'” Farmer said, adding that the officer she spoke to was reciting information about Hoffenberg that appeared to come from Wikipedia. “That cop starts laughing and spouting all these horrible things about Hoff.”
Balcom, who is a former law enforcement officer, later called police on Farmer’s behalf when they got no answers. He told The Daily Beast he gave police an address for Hoffenberg on Sunday but got no response. He said when he called the department back on Tuesday and warned he would check on Hoffenberg himself, another officer agreed to visit the house. The officer found Hoffenberg dead at his home.
But Stanko said cops responded to Farmer’s wellness check requests, but the address they originally received was incorrect. “It was someone who identified themselves as a victim of Jeffrey Epstein who originally called,” he said. “She was calling as a friend of Mr. Hoffenberg and said she had not heard from him for several days. She was from out of state.
A few days later, Stanko added, a friend of the “original caller” provided a second address.
“You can’t make everyone happy,” he said when asked about Farmer’s complaints that it took cops days to find Hoffenberg. “The agent answered, contacted the owner, tried to make a canvas. Nobody knew anything.