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Joseph Shereshevsky, a felon, and his partner Steven Byers fraudulently raised $225 million from nearly 1,200 investors, the SEC claims in Federal Court. The SEC says the men are running a Ponzi scheme through Wextrust Capital, other Wextrust entities, and Axela Hospitality.

Also sued are Wextrust Equity Partners, Wextrust Development Group, and Wextrust Securities. The defendants created 150 LLCs and conducted at least 60 private placement offerings "without disclosing that funds raised were actually being used to pay prior investors n unrelated offerings and to make unauthorized payments to fund the operations of the Wextrust Entities, which were operating at a deficit," the SEC says.

Wextrust has "borrowed" at least $74 million from the LLCs and "loaned" at least $54 million to them, the SEC says. It wants funds frozen, books and paperwork, disgorgement, injunctions and penalties.

Byers, 46, of Oak Park, owns 60% of Wextrust, the SEC says.

Shereshevsky, 52, aka Joseph Heller or "Yossi," lives in Norfolk, Va. He pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2003 and was sentenced to time served and ordered to pay $38,800 in restitution.

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