If someone promises you a “once in a lifetime deal” it’s probably not a good investment.
That’s what financial guru Matthew Onofrio, who sold a program he claimed to have cracked the commercial real estate code, promised to inexperienced investors looking to get rich. states that it was all a scam aimed at lining Onofrio’s pockets.
Originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the 31-year-old has spoken compellingly on investment podcasts and conferences. He said he stepped away from his promising career as a nurse anesthesiologist when he discovered a real estate strategy known as triple net investing.
But between 2020 and August of this year, Onofrio involved investors in a complex network of property sales, fraudulent mortgage applications, and falsified valuations, according to Minnesota federal prosecutors. It allegedly cost the bank $35 million.
In a statement, Onofrio’s attorney, Marsh Halberg, said his client’s investors were not financially harmed by their investments.
“The defense is aware of very few, if any, transactions in which investors have actually suffered losses during his time. and we believe the value of the properties we have purchased has increased,” Hallberg wrote in an email.
A civil lawsuit filed this year involving a radiologist from Puerto Rico named Matthew Harman, who wanted to join a real estate investment with his wife, revealed how Onofrio operated.
The pair met at a networking conference in Colorado in 2020 and hit it off while discussing real estate opportunities, according to the complaint. He said he wants to build a real estate portfolio.
Hermann said in court documents that Onofrio had offered to enter into a “once-in-a-lifetime deal” involving a commercial property sold for $6.3 million in Minneapolis. All Hermann had to do was set aside $1.5 million as a down payment.
“Onofrio told Hellmann that he could not achieve his goal of buying a duplex and quitting his job.” He told Hermann that it was all a matter of mindset.
When Hellman said he didn’t have that kind of money, Onofrio offered to lend it to him to secure a bank loan for the purchase, and Hellmann agreed, court documents say. Onofrio didn’t say he already had a deal with the owner to buy the building with his $4.75 million instead of $6.3 million, and the difference was in his pocket.
Hermann then ended up paying about $6,000 a month in loan payments to Onofrio, on top of the bank loan.
“Onofrio pushed Hellmann, a newcomer to real estate, into this purchase with grand promises of the deal of a lifetime. But the reality was that Onofrio, not Hermann, could make the most money on the deal.” says the newspaper.
Hermann later said he tried to sell the property and found a buyer willing to pay $6.3 million, but a lawsuit over Onofrio’s loan prevented the deal from coming to fruition.
Hermann’s attorneys did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Federal prosecutors described a similar pattern, with Onofrio putting his own money into investor accounts to make their finances look good to lenders and preparing appraisal papers to inflate the value of real estate.
In one 2021 transaction, Minneapolis commercial real estate was sold three times in just five months through multiple entities managed by Onofrio. By the time the string of deals closed, the price had jumped nearly $4 million for him. Reported by the business publication Finance & Commerce.
Onofrio has been charged with three counts of bank fraud, and prosecutors say they are seeking the forfeiture of $35 million seized during the investigation.