all 24 comments

[–]thisisinsider[S] 31 points32 points  (1 child)

From reporter Daniel Grieger, "Matt Onofrio had a remarkable story. Around 2020, fed up with his career as a nurse anesthetist, the now 32-year-old Wisconsin native quit his job to start investing full time in commercial real estate.

He had no experience in the industry, yet in a few short years he'd raked in tens of millions of dollars. He was the everyman who'd made it big — and he made it sound simple.

Handsome, with close-cropped hair and manicured sideburns, Onofrio became a regular in the investing podcast circuit, peppering his speech with self-help tropes and suggestions that "mindset," "massive action," and setting a "vivid vision" were as important as business know-how. His pitch reached everyone from doctors in California to wannabe entrepreneurs in the Midwest.

Even celebrities were dazzled. The mixed-martial-arts star Michael Chandler set up a video call with Onofrio in 2021. The 37-year-old, who has a wife and two kids, knew he couldn't stay in the ring forever and wanted to replicate Onofrio's success for himself.

In the meeting, Onofrio went out of his way to impress Chandler. He mentioned a book deal with the investing media company BiggerPockets and at one point held up his phone to show that his bank account contained about $35 million. By the end of the year, Chandler was sitting at a closing table in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, where Onofrio had persuaded him to buy a $16 million commercial property that housed a rehab facility.

But as Chandler scrutinized the paperwork, he realized the deal was more complicated than Onofrio had let on. Onofrio had arranged to buy the property himself months earlier for $12 million. Now he was transferring the contract to Chandler, charging him a $4 million markup. "Michael didn't expect Matt was setting up this deal out of the goodness of his heart," Chandler's attorney, Brendan Johnson, said. "But he certainly didn't appreciate that there would be a $4 million swing."

The property's rental income was just enough to cover its debt and produce modest proceeds, so Chandler put aside his misgivings and signed. Then, in November 2022, federal prosecutors indicted Onofrio on charges involving three deals he'd arranged in Minnesota the year before. It's common practice in real estate to buy a property and flip it to a buyer for a higher price. But the indictment accuses Onofrio of going further. Onofrio, it states, created fake purchase agreements to make his inflated prices seem legitimate to banks, temporarily wired his clients money to dupe banks into lending to them, and lent his clients part of the properties' purchase prices — that they paid him back with interest — without telling the banks.

All of this, the indictment states, amounted to bank fraud. As part of the case, the government froze Onofrio's bank account. No trial date has been set, and Onofrio has yet to enter a plea. Onofrio's attorneys said they "preferred not to comment at this time."

Chandler was shocked to learn that Onofrio, whom he called one of the most "unassuming" people he'd ever met, was an accused fraudster. Onofrio seemed so benign, so completely ordinary, that Chandler had never thought to question him.

The months of shame, uncertainty, and regret have been "the most horrific thing I've ever had to go through in my entire life," said Chandler, who's worried the property will end up being a financial drain. "And I've gone through a lot of tough stuff."

The federal complaint doesn't involve the property Onofrio sold to Chandler. Yet there are striking similarities between Chandler's deal and those described in the indictment, as well as other transactions Onofrio arranged, more than 60 of which are detailed in a spreadsheet given to Insider by a former employee at Onofrio's company, Wild Moose Ventures. That employee, who worked with Onofrio in 2021 and 2022, said he was speaking with law enforcement about Onofrio's conduct and didn't want to be identified. He estimated that Onofrio had set up about $400 million in deals in the two years preceding the charges against him. Finance & Commerce reported that one property was sold three times in four months by Onofrio or entities he controlled, netting Onofrio nearly $4 million in the process.

The unfolding situation has the potential to cast Onofrio as a real-estate confidence man for the influencer age. People have always sought out sources of passive income — ways to make money with minimal work. But the COVID-19 pandemic made the concept irresistible to anyone unemployed or worried about losing their job. Many of these people turned to DIY investing forums, podcasts, and YouTubers for advice. And there was Onofrio, confident and savvy, promising to help average people buy commercial buildings with no money down and no experience — an unheard-of proposition.

Matthew Hermann, a 36-year-old radiologist who bought a warehouse from Onofrio for $6.3 million in 2020, said Onofrio positioned himself as a mentor and safety net, telling him, "I always would look out for you, and if ever push came to shove, I would help you get out of this deal." Hermann said Onofrio wound up overcharging him by $1.5 million and downplaying tens of thousands of dollars in property expenses that Hermann later had to pay. The radiologist estimated he's lost $200,000 so far.

'Matt checked all the right boxes,' said a real-estate investor who hosted Onofrio on his podcast in April 2021. 'It's easy to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. If you present yourself the right way, how are most people supposed to know?' "

[–]syds 4 points5 points  (0 children)

he tried to steal mortgage interest profit from the banks, even D.T. isnt that stupid

[–]zhoushmoe[🍰] 34 points35 points  (3 children)

I mean, isn't that common knowledge at this point? Any internet guru selling you on a way to get rich is the person you should least trust with your money... BiggerPockets is emblematic of everything wrong with the way Americans approach investments today and a huge contributor to the RE bubble we're in. It's not remotely surprising that it's all a giant scam. I hope this ends badly for all the folks who got us all into this mess.

[–]Dmoan 9 points10 points  (1 child)

After Covid sadly tons of investors flushed with cash from PPP, stimulus, tech salary decided to become RE investors thanks to YouTube gurus and were buying not one or two buy dozens of properties thanks to manipulation of DTI ratio. While this lead to RE prices sky rocketing in places like Phoenix where investors made up more than half of buyers. Already in constrained housing market this lead to spike home prices.

This crowded out new home buyers who also have to jump thru dozens of paper work to get even pre approval while RE investor can get homes at ease..

[–]zhoushmoe[🍰] 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Like locusts

[–]Alioops12 4 points5 points  (0 children)

BiggerPockets is a valuable resource especially for new investors. It’s not a scam.

[–]JollyJustice 7 points8 points  (0 children)

"Grinds set guru indicted on fraud"

Really not surprising.

[–]GregMcgregerson 6 points7 points  (2 children)

This dude is now running a Russian propagand channel on YouTube. I wonder if he is getting paid....

[–]myrka22 0 points1 point  (0 children)

What’s the name of the channel?

[–]ispb2 19 points20 points  (1 child)

Daily reminder that if they knew what the fuck they were doing, they'd be doing it, not making infomercials.

[–]letmegetmycrayons 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Read the article. He was doing it. Just fraudulently.

[–]Nomaad2016 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Don’t be a -

Matt - wolf in sheep’s clothing

Michael- sheep in it’s own clothing

Matthew - doesn’t know he isn’t clothed yet (overcharged 1.5 mil but thinks he lost only 200k)

[–]rpctaco1984 2 points3 points  (4 children)

What a garbage person! He went from doing something productive for society (CRNA) to ripping people off. I hope they take away his medical license too.

[–]kplogdt 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Who says he wasn’t a junk coworker who was likely on his his way out? My guess is coworkers were sick of this maggot.

How do I know? Seen it several times.

[–]VhickyParm 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The fed made the economy based on who holds what assets and not who works anymore.

Makes sense, this is just another example of the system breaking down.

[–]crayshesay 0 points1 point  (0 children)


[–]soliduscode 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The problem is with workplaces, student debt, and corporate culture that forces people to give up good job to seek way out of the rat race fastest

[–]PrettyInvestigator99 1 point2 points  (0 children)

SBF of housing

[–]Judge_Wapner 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Narrator: It was.

[–][deleted] 3 points4 points  (3 children)

I might have an unpopular opinion that most, if not all RE wholesalers are some level of scam artist. To get a property at a price they can wholesale, generally SOMEONE is being taken advantage of. Its a way of making money that needs to be legistlated out of existence. RE wholesalers should not exist.

[–]Any-Welder4286 -1 points0 points  (2 children)

That is not a true statement. I do wholesale and what this guy did is horrible and not ethical at all.

However, I have realtors who bring me properties they know will not sell on the MLS. I have helped military families who are pcs’ing to another base and do not want to go through the traditional selling process. People in foreclosure whose homes were set to go to auction, we were able to get the auction stopped and sell the home so they make money on the home and keep their credit from blowing up completely.

In fairness, all wholesalers are not scum. I know I certainly am not. I do not take advantage of people. I have to be able to sleep at night.

I have heard of wholesalers taking advantage of elderly people or those who just do not know. I have a friend who wholesales and her grandmother years ago sold her home for $2,000 to a wholesaler when the house was worth we’ll over $100k. That is deplorable behavior.

Some people are willing to sell their home for a reduced price because they do want the headache of getting the home ready to sell, and they do not want 100 people in and out of their home. Or they inherited the property and do want to live in it or be a landlord.

Anyhow, I just wanted to show there is a different side to wholesaling.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Like I said in my first reply "generally." If you aren't one of the bad ones, well that's great.

For me personally, I still have a hard time believing that you are getting those people, even the ones you think you're helping, all they can out of their property becuase typically you'd want to milk the deal for everything you can (not only that, in most markets, houses have multiple offers in a few days regardless of condition so you're not doing anyone any favors). For a wholesaler to make money, it literally has to be baked into the 1st deal and the only way to do that is to short the person on the other end. To believe anything different you'd be kidding yourself. You aren't providing some amazing service for someone who needs/wants to sell conveniently and that's the scam.

I know of two wholesalers locally to me that thought the same thing you do, and they are both currently being sued by previous owners and 1 of them decided to move on from wholeselling because he couldn't sleep at night.

I wish you luck, but would hope you'd move on to something else. If you didn't exist, those same people "needing" to sell would be selling on the open market anyway. And if they chose not to, well then the issue wasn't big enough for them in the first place.

[–]Any-Welder4286 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Wow, you refuse to see a different side. People pay realtors a fee to sell their home. Are you saying us as wholesalers should not benefit? I do agree the fees shouldn’t be outrageous.

There are ethical wholesalers out there. Please do not lump everyone into one category. Thanks!

[–][deleted]  (1 child)


    [–]I_Miss_Scrubs 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    Read the article, man. He’s being accused of bank fraud because he was lying to banks and moving money around to appear as if he was more stable. In addition to the fact he was a scam artist that swindled people.