Sanjeev Acharya, a Silicon Valley real estate developer, claimed in 2017 that he had become one of the most prominent condo developers in the region after only six years of being in the business.

Scamming investors

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint this week that shattered Acharya’s real estate empire. The document accused the developer of scamming hundreds of investors similar to what officials called a pyramid scheme.

The SEC complaint detailed that dozens of Acharya’s development projects were not profitable but were continuing to raise money from investors since 2016. The real estate developer allegedly gathered more than $119 million from about 250 investors through “a continuous series of misrepresentations and omissions and other deceptive conduct.”

Additionally, the complaint said Acharya used money that new investors provided to pay off older investors to stave off suspicions. 

Reports noted that as recently as October, Acharya discouraged at least one investor from raising their concerns to the SEC. The accusations added that the developer and his company continued to ask for funding from investors all throughout the summer.

The SEC said that the majority of the victims who are at risk of losing the entirety of their investments are from the South Asian Community in the South Bay. The complaint read, “Acharya marketed these investments to South Asian friends and family and then sought referrals, expanding his investor base to over three hundred investors in the Northern California South Asian community.”

The website of Acharya’s real estate, Silicon Sage, showcases several condo developments, some of which are under construction. However, a disclaimer notes that “In an effort toward continuous improvement, Silicon Sage Builders and Silicon Sage Homes reserves the right to change prices, standard materials, designs, floor plans, or information provided on this list without notice.”

Last year, the suspect promoted his plan for a “mega village” that would be built in North San Jose. The project would be a 2,000-home community with numerous features, such as a movie theater complex, playgrounds, and one million square feet of office space.

Attracting investors

In 2019, Acharya said, “The idea is to create a place where people can come and spend half a day. We want this to be a destination for the Bay Area,” the San Francisco Gate reported.

The Silicon Sage was also a part of an odd real estate venture in January that aimed to purchase a historic fire station located in Fremont for just $1.00. However, the purchase would require the buyer to move the building to a new location as well as carrying all of the costs.

In 2017, the Silicon Sage released a promotional video where Acharya said he only had $20 when he entered the United States. He said he then got into the condo development business in 2011 that helped him rise up. Acharya said, “I realized I was doing this better than others; I was doing it more efficiently.”

In 2016, several local news outlets praised Acharya for allegedly building downtown Santa Clara back up. NBC Bay Area’s Scott Budman said in 2015 that: “For decades [Santa Clara] hasn’t had much of downtown, that’s about to change. Today we got a first glance at the Downtown Gateway Project.”

The construction was planned two blocks away from Santa Clara University and claimed to be the first new home community to rise up in the area in the last two decades. Acharya said in 2017, “We took a different approach to a meeting with the neighbors, we took an approach of trust, that’s where the fun lies. And if that approach turns into dollars and cents that’s good for everybody, then we have a great business.”