English: Mug shot of Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882 - January 18, 1949). Charles Ponzi was born in Italy and became known as a swindler for his money scheme. His aliases include Charles Ponei, Charles P. Bianchi, Carl and Carlo. Italiano: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On July 10, 2012, Celia Gallardo, 42, North Hills, CA was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud and seven counts of mail fraud by a federal grand jury in the Central District of California. Gallardo, a San Fernando Valley real estate agent who held herself out as a real estate investor was charged with running a million-dollar Ponzi scheme from September 2007 through September 2008 that victimized dozens of investors through a bogus real estate investment program.
Gallardo told the investors that she would purchase condominiums and that these properties would quickly yield high rates of return: a 100 percent in only 30 days.
You'd think that such a seemingly pie-in-the-sky promise would have fallen of deaf ears but, no, some folks just don't get the concept that too-good-to-be-true is, well, you know, too good to be true.
Of course, in keeping with the nature of these Ponzis, Gallardo characterized her real estate investments as safe and went so far as to issue her investors promissory notes that purportedly confirmed the bona fides of the deal. Yeah, right. So much for safe and sound.
Yet again, we learn that another con artist had diverted investors' funds from their intended use and, among other uses, Gallardo spent some of the investment dollars on her residence, her mortgage, foreign luxury travel (including a luxury Mediterranean cruise), cash withdrawals, and to repay certain earlier investors a la Ponzi.
Gallardo was arrested on July 11th and pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts. If convicted, she faced a maximum possible sentence of 320 years in federal prison.
On October 15, 2012, federal prosecutors announced that Gallardo had pled guilty to wire fraud. In her plea agreement, Gallardo described how she had pressured one victim into investing quickly with claims that her investment program was buying unfinished condominiums for pennies on the dollar in Florida and Tennessee. This victim, who eventually lost $500,000, borrowed money against his home in order to invest with Gallardo. Gallardo admitted that her scheme resulted in at least $2.245 million in investor losses.
Following her plea, Gallardo faced a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a likely restitution order.
Again? That's about the only thing that I can sincerely offer at this point in 2012. Thankfully, this case involves Ponzi fraud from 2007 and 2008 - a tad before the whole Madoff thing blew up and we all became far, far too familiar with the term Ponzi. Which leaves me just a little bit of hope that the sheep and the pigeons out there have learned something.
I know, however, that they haven't.
You know that they haven't.
My guess is that "Street Sweeper" will be covering these cases for years to come.
Oh well, at least it gives me something to do.
Also READ: InvestForClosures Fraudsters Hit With Heavy Prison Terms