Guilty Plea in $7 Million California Real Estate Ponzi Scheme

A California man pled guilty to charges he operated a $7 million Ponzi scheme that purported to offer high short-term returns on real estate loans.  Mark Alan Hensing, 51, of Tustin, California, entered a guilty plea to sixty-eight felony counts, including grand theft, filing false recorded documents, elder financial exploitation and sentencing enhancements for white-collar crime over $500,000 and excessive stealing.  Helsing was originally arrested in June 2009 by state police.

According to authorities, Helsing operated as a broker for 'hard money lenders' through his four businesses: Sea View Investments, HLHS Financial Services, Inc., Foothill Realty, and Sea View Mortgage.  From May 2004 to June 2007, Helsing solicited investors to fund short-term real estate loans, promising returns exceeding 15% annually.  To convince investors of the authenticity of the scheme, Helsing provided potential investors with fictitious paperwork and loan documents.  In total, Helsing took in nearly $7 million from friends and family.  Yet, rather than fund the purported short-term loans, Helsing instead used money from new investors to pay returns to existing investors.  The exact amount of losses are unknown, but believed to exceed $1 million.

A press release issued by the Orange County District Attorney's Office stated that Helsing is scheduled to be sentenced on December 2, where  victims will have the opportunity to make victim impact statements.  Helsing faces a maximum of up to fifteen years in state prison.

A press release from the Orange County District Attorney is here.