San Fernando Valley Woman Arrested in Million-Dollar Real Estate Ponzi Scheme Run Through Companies in Santa Clarita Valley
|U.S. Attorney’s Office July 12, 2012|
LOS ANGELES—A San Fernando Valley real estate agent and self-described real estate investor charged with running a million dollar-plus Ponzi scheme out of companies based in the Santa Clarita Valley has been arrested on federal wire fraud and mail fraud charges.
Celia Gallardo, 42, of North Hills, was arrested yesterday by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Gallardo was arraigned in United States District Court in Los Angeles yesterday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to charges contained in a 16-count indictment.
A federal grand jury indicted Gallardo on Tuesday, accusing her of bilking dozens of investors who put money into Gallardo’s purported real estate investment program. Gallardo told the investors that she would purchase condominiums in other states and that these properties would yield extremely high rates of return in very short time periods—as much as a 100 percent return in only 30 days, according to the indictment.
Gallardo allegedly assured victims that their money was safe. She issued “Promissory Notes” to investors that “confirmed” their money was being used in the purported real estate transactions. However, as alleged in the indictment, Gallardo spent a majority of investor funds on undisclosed and unauthorized purposes, including her residence, foreign luxury travel, cash withdrawals, and to repay certain earlier investors to perpetuate the scheme. The victims, including investors in California and Arizona, lost more than $1 million.
Gallardo’s scheme allegedly ran from September 2007 until September 2008.
At yesterdays arraignment, United States Magistrate Judge Carla Woerhle ordered that Gallardo be released on a $75,000 bond. The case was assigned to United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who scheduled a trial for September 4.
The indictment charges Gallardo with nine counts of wire fraud and seven counts of mail fraud. If she is convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, Gallardo would face a maximum possible sentence of 320 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The charges against Gallardo resulted from an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.