A San Fernando Valley woman was arrested on Wednesday and accused of operating a real estate Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of over $1 million. Celia Gallardo, 42, was arrested by FBI agents following her indictment on Tuesday on an assortment of federal charges including seven counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Both mail fraud and wire fraud carry maximum terms of imprisonment of twenty years per charge along with criminal monetary fines up to $250,000. At her arraignment Wednesday, she entered a plea of not guilty.
According to the indictment, Gallardo operated a real estate investment program from September 2007 to September 2008. Potential investors were told that Gallardo would purchase condominiums located in other states that would yield extraordinary short-term returns of as much as 100% in thirty days. Investors were issued promissory notes evidencing their investment and promised returns. However, according to the FBI, Gallardo instead used investor funds to support a lavish lifestyle that included a house and travel abroad, as well as payments made to existing investors purporting to be interest and/or principal redemptions. In total, dozens of investors entrusted more than $1 million to Gallardo.
At her arraignment, Gallardo was released on $75,000 bond. United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson has scheduled a tentative trial date for September 4.