A California woman who ran a multi-million dollar real estate Ponzi scheme has been sentenced to serve five years in prison. Celia Gallardo, 42, received the sentence after pleading guilty to a single charge of wire fraud last October. While prosecutors recommended a sentence of 41 months based on federal sentencing guidelines, U.S. Judge Doug Pregerson opted for a higher sentence. Gallardo was also ordered to pay full restitution of $2,389,400 to her victims.
From September 2007 to September 2008, Gallardo soliicited investors through her companies Gold Feather Realty and Gold Credit Investment, pitching a real estate program that promised exorbitant returns through the purchase of unfinished condominiums in Florida and Tennessee for 'pennies on the dollar.' Some investors were even told that Gallardo could triple their money within ninety days. In total, Gallardo raised several million dollars from victims.
However, instead of investing the vast majority of investor funds, Gallardo used the funds to prop up a lavish lifestyle that included paying her mortgage, foreign luxury travel, and cash withdrawals. Additionally, Gallardo used investor funds to make interest payments to existing investors - a classic hallmark of a Ponzi scheme.
While the vast majority of Ponzi schemes are committed by men, a growing number have been committed by women, including several schemes with sizeable losses. More information on Ponzi schemes committed by women is available here.