A California man was sentenced to fifteen years in state prison after running a real-estate Ponzi scheme that duped investors out of $7 million. Mark Alan Helsing, 53, had previously pled guilty in October to sixty-eight felony counts, including fifty-five counts of grand theft and six counts of exploitation of the elderly for financial gain. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence of fifteen years due to the severity of the crimes and involvement of elderly victims.
Helsing told family and friends that he 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. A "hard money lender" is a private investor who seeks loans from non-bank lenders. From May 2004 to June 2007, Helsing solicited investors for funds to make short-term real estate loans, and promised annual returns exceeding 15%. To add to the scheme's legitimacy, investors were provided with falsified documents purporting to show constant account gains. In total, family and friends invested over $7 million in Helsing's scheme. However, when several of Helsing's supposed interest checks bounced, California police began an investigation that eventually revealed Helsing's fraud.
According to authorities, while Helsing will be ordered to pay restitution to his defrauded victims, it will be determined at a later date.