California real estate agent to do 5 years for Ponzi scheme

A Santa Clarita, Calif.-based real estate agent has been sentenced to five years in prison for running what prosecutors described as a “multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.”

Celia Gallardo, 42, told one investor who lost $500,000 that she was buying unfinished condominiums for pennies on the dollar in Florida and Tennessee.

Instead, prosecutors said, Gallardo used the money she obtained from victims to make payments to earlier investors, pay her employees, withdraw cash, pay personal expenses, pay her mortgage, and go on a luxury Mediterranean cruise with close friends and family.

In pleading guilty to wire fraud in October, prosecutors said Gallardo admitted that her scheme caused losses of at least $2.245 million to dozens of victims, most of whom were residents of California and Arizona.

Gallardo, who faced a maximum of 20 years in prison, was reportedly ordered to pay $2.389 million in restitution.

On April 23, the California Department of Real Estate initiated a disciplinary action against Gallardo, saying she faced revocation of her salesperson’s license for failing to report her guilty plea. Source: scvnews.com.