On Nov. 3, a California man was sentenced to 34 years in prison for operating a real estate Ponzi scheme. The 58-year-old eluded capture for two years before being convicted in January 2016.
According to authorities, the defendant stole approximately $3 million from 11 victims between 2004 and 2010. He did this by soliciting people to invest in his loan company, Villa Capital Inc., which was based in Irvine. The victims were told they would be funding mortgage loans for people who wanted non-bank lenders. They were also told that the mortgages would provide a quick return on their investment. However, the defendant stole funds when some of the mortgages fell through. He also gave some investors false documentation that led them to believe their loans were secured through collateral. To cover his tracks, he issued small payments to the investors for a while. However, he ceased all payments when the real estate market crashed.
The defendant, a native of Newport Beach, was living in Brazil at the time of his arrest. He was apprehended by Panamanian authorities when he attempted to fly to Costa Rica. He was extradited to California in December 2013.
White collar crimes like Ponzi schemes, falsifying records and embezzlement carry severe penalties, including long prison terms and heavy fines. However, people could avoid some or all of these consequences by contacting a criminal defense attorney as soon as they learn they are under investigation. An attorney could review the evidence and work to build a strong defense based on the details of the case. In some cases, it may be possible to get the charges dismissed. In others, it may be possible negotiate a more favorable plea deal.
Source: Orange County Register, "Newport Beach man gets 34 years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme," Nov. 4, 2017