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California man faces fraud charges for alleged Ponzi scheme

After being arrested out of state, a 70-year-old man formerly of Hillsborough has been scheduled to appear in San Francisco federal court to answer for charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors claim that he launched a real estate Ponzi scheme in 2010 and used the money collected from investors to pay for personal expenses, buy stocks and sometimes pay investors.

His investors thought that he was buying real estate in the United States and other countries on their behalf. He promised good deals and high returns of 10 percent based on his strategy of buying distressed properties at the scenes of natural disasters. Evidence collected by federal investigators included details about a couple who reportedly sent him more than $380,000, which he then spent on himself.

At his arraignment, prosecutors charged him with two counts of money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud. Each count of wire fraud and mail fraud allows for a maximum sentence of 20 years. Each money laundering charge could produce a sentence of 10 years. If convicted, penalties could also include $250,000 in fines and the requirement to restore money to victims.

Harsh sentences often accompany convictions for federal crimes. Therefore, a person being investigated for allegations related to fraud or embezzling may want to seek representation from a criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer familiar with financial records could evaluate the evidence and strive to challenge its association with the defendant. This effort might undermine portions of a prosecutor's case and result in reduced or dismissed charges. If strong evidence remains, a lawyer might propose a plea deal that limits the penalties.

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