It wasn’t long ago that wealth manager Bradley C. Reifler was advising middle-class investors on how to make more money, but today he’s struggling to keep himself afloat. The Internal Revenue Service has filed a $23 million claim against the Dutchess County resident for unpaid income taxes, penalties and interest.
That’s less than half of what he owes, according to a Chapter 7 liquidation case he filed earlier this year in U.S. Bankruptcy court in Poughkeepsie. Reifler, who lives on a 144-acre horse farm in Millbrook, declared $50.7 million in liabilities and $4.9 million in assets.
Reifler began his financial career with Refco Securities, a now defunct commodity trading business founded by his grandfather. In 1995, he co-founded Pali Capital, a boutique firm that specialized in derivatives and fixed-income trading.
He had a reputation as a charismatic, free-spending master salesman, according to a 2010 Reuters profile.
Sometimes he commuted to Manhattan by helicopter from his Dutchess County home at Sky Blue Farm. He spent a decade and $8 million renovating the farm. It reportedly includes an ice hockey rink, tennis courts, riding ring, shooting range, motocross track and swimming pool. It has been listed for sale for as high as $27 million and at a reduced price of $15.75 million.
In 2009, Reifler founded Forefront Management Group, an investment banking and wealth management firm. Three years ago, he shifted the focus from high-net worth investors to “nonaccredited” investors. That’s the Securities and Exchange Commission term for people who have a net worth of less than $1 million or annual income less than $200,000 and who must be protected from risky investments. Reifler created Forefront Income Trust as an alternative investment for the middle class.
Meanwhile, he has not done so well.
The $23 million IRS claim covers 2000 to 2005 and 2010 to 2011. The bankruptcy petition also lists a $6.8 million business debt to GB Forefront LP; a $6.1 million business debt to JPMorgan Chase; a $6 million default judgment to his mother, Lisette Ackerberg; a $5.5 million second mortgage on the farm to Yassky Properties / CYJF and a $2 million first mortgage on the farm to Bank of America.
He lists monthly income of $12,083 from Forefront.
A bankruptcy court trustee has cast doubt on Reifler’s liquidation case. Marianne T. O’Toole, a Katonah attorney, filed an adversarial action claiming that Sky Blue Farm was fraudulently transferred to a trust.
Sky Blue Farm Trust was set up in 2012, with Reifler’s sister-in-law, Connie Malkiewicz, as trustee. Yet, no payment was made. It was set up for the exclusive benefit of Reifler and his wife, Nancy. They continue to occupy and control the farm. And Reifler lists the farm property as an asset on a bankruptcy form.
O’Toole charges that the property was transferred to defraud JPMorgan Chase and future creditors. The bank made a similar accusation in a lawsuit filed last year in federal court, claiming that the transfer was meant to put the farm beyond the reach of an anticipated court judgment in a $5.5 million lawsuit. O’Toole wants the bankruptcy judge to void the transfer to protect creditors.
Reifler denied the accusations in an answer filed on June 23.
In 2012, according to his account of events, Reifler began experiencing signs of memory loss. One day he answered his daughter’s question about a musician in a totally nonsensical manner. His speech was slurred when he woke up. He walked unsteadily. He lost consciousness a few times. He had no recollection of these events. Given a family history of Parkinson’s disease and brain cancer, he began to plan his last will and testament, they said.
As the creators and sole beneficiaries of the Sky Blue Farm Trust, he and his wife did not actually convey the property within the meaning of New York law or bankruptcy law, they stated. There was no fraud.
He asked the bankruptcy court to dismiss O’Toole’s claim.