Four California residents have been arrested for allegedly targeting the elderly in a real estate investment fraud scheme that authorities say defrauded dozens of elderly investors out of $2.3 million. Charges levied against the four defendants include securities fraud, conspiracy, and elder abuse.
According to the arrest affidavit, Green Valley-based real estate company Gold Country Lenders engaged in a Ponzi investment scheme from 2003 to 2011. The company allegedly sold investments in specific real estate development projects, but used the investors’ funds to make interest payments to earlier investors and to pay for projects in which Gold Country’s CEO had a financial interest, such as a prestigious golf course and clubhouse.
Investors, many of whom had long-standing relationships with the accused, were allegedly promised annual returns of 8 to 12% on their investments. They also were told that the investments would be secured by first or second deeds of trust. According to authorities, however, many of the deeds were never recorded. Others were diluted by repackaging or subordinate to other loans.
Philip Lester, Gold Country’s CEO, and Susan Laferte, the company’s CFO, have been charged with 66 felony counts of conspiracy, elder abuse, and securities fraud. Philip Lester’s wife, Ellen, and Jonathan Blinder, the fourth arrestee, also have been charged with securities fraud. To learn more about the case, click here.