Take the Money and Run

Rebecca and Terry Solomon face charges of fleecing almost $20 million from investors, but not even the feds know where the couple is hiding.

Osenton and Vogelheim found themselves trapped in that fog of ambiguity as they pressed Rebecca to pay back their $2 million. Court documents divulge scarce details about how she parried as they confronted her time and again over the next year. But perhaps she simply recycled the responses she offered to Flora Ng, who wondered when Solomon would refund her $2 million.

In May 2004, a month before panning for investors in Tiburon, Rebecca Solomon discussed a gem scheme with her friend Neil Ison, a San Jose lawyer. She told Ison of her plan to purchase an 81-carat diamond for $6 million that she could resell to a buyer in Japan for double that amount. The catch: She needed to come up with $2 million in the next two days. In return, she would repay the loan within a month and split her profits.

Ison relayed the proposal to his girlfriend, Ng, a Saratoga property manager, whom he had introduced to the Solomons some months earlier. Ng agreed to the deal, wiring $350,000 of her own money and borrowing $1.65 million from a business partner. The following week, Rebecca called Ng with the good news of the diamond sale — only to blow the 30-day payment deadline in June, according to the indictment.

The Solomons wallowed in gilded excess, renting a Tiburon mansion for $20,000 a month.
The Solomons wallowed in gilded excess, renting a Tiburon mansion for $20,000 a month.
Some saw Terry as his wife's "lapdog."
Some saw Terry as his wife's "lapdog."

Over the ensuing six months, as she failed to cover her debt, Solomon fed a string of excuses to Ng, authorities allege. In the strangest episode, Solomon, alluding to a problem with wiring funds into the U.S., sent Ng and Ison to pick up the money from a Swiss bank. Her story proved as permeable as the country's namesake cheese, the couple flying home a week later without check in hand.

Solomon later blamed her delinquency on losing $11 million in a hedge fund and a delay in gaining control of her family's trust fund in the Philippines, court records state. Meanwhile, Ng struggled to fend off her creditors, who foreclosed on at least two of her properties. She wound up filing for bankruptcy.

In spring 2005, Ng sued Solomon in Santa Clara County Superior Court, alleging fraud and breach of contract. Her suit mirrored one brought by Ison, who accused Solomon of reneging on a promise to pay him a $1 million finder's fee. The two cases contain details that hint at the origins of Solomon's wealth, apart from the millions she and her husband allegedly bilked from investors.

Ison, who before the diamond deal fiasco represented the Solomons in a handful of contractual matters, supplied a declaration for Ng's case. In it, he contended that Rebecca Solomon presented herself as a beneficiary of a $1.2 billion family trust that "was derived from her father, who was a general in the Marcos regime." Ison further asserted that Solomon claimed the Philippine government intended to seize the trust, "so she wanted to hide her assets."

In his own case, Ison filed copies of e-mails he exchanged with Solomon in early 2005. The messages capture his frustration as Solomon, vacationing in Japan, ostensibly breaks a series of pledges to wire money — ranging from $30,000 to $3 million — as Ng's creditors circle. Solomon's replies mix denial with hubris. After apparently missing another payment deadline, she writes, "I ... will continue to do the best I can for you and Flora under these very difficult circumstances."

The e-mail thread climaxes with Ison's resignation letter in April 2005. One passage quotes a message Solomon sent a month earlier concerning the arrest of Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, a Japanese railway and hotel tycoon. Ranked as the world's richest man by Forbes in 1990, Tsutsumi, a major player in bringing the 1998 Winter Olympics to Japan, faced charges of insider trading and falsifying company records. (He later pleaded guilty to reduced charges and paid a $1.7 million fine.)

Ison asserts in his e-mail that, months earlier, Solomon told him of Tsutsumi facing another investigation for diverting $600 million into a Japanese trust fund for tax-relief purposes. In a subsequent letter to Solomon's new lawyers, Ison referred to the account as "Rebecca Solomon's trust fund" and stated that Tsutsumi deposited the money "with the complicity" of her former husband, another Japanese businessman. According to Ison, Solomon faulted a police probe of the scheme for stalling her efforts to obtain $135 million in loans.

Ng and Ison did not respond to interview requests. An FBI spokesman stated only that the agency has heard theories about Rebecca Solomon's riches, leaving open the question of how many, if any, trust funds exist in her name around the world. But whatever the case, the indictment reveals Solomon turned a profit on her purported diamond deals in the Bay Area. Ng, Osenton, and Vogelheim recovered less than half of the combined $4 million they loaned, with Ng sustaining the heaviest loss at $1.7 million. Then again, less than half beats what the Solomons repaid a group of South Bay investors.

The couple arrived in the Bay Area in 2002 after their commercial failures in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Precisely how they dug out from those financial cave-ins poses a riddle as mystifying as their whereabouts at the moment. Yet in the same way they appear disinclined to notify authorities about their location, the Solomons omitted mention of past blunders while soliciting investors to fund a Chinese telecom venture.

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