UPDATE: 3 Women Sentenced To Jail For Ponzi Swindle In California; Scam Involved Bogus ‘Milk’ Sales To Disneyland And Allegedly Targeted Parents Of School Children
The three California women who hatched a Ponzi scheme involving purportedly “exclusive” milk sales to Disneyland and allegedly recruited investors from the ranks of local PTA members at an elementary school in the Los Angeles region now have been sentenced to jail terms. (PTA stands for Parent-Teacher Association.)
The PP Blog first reported on Maricela Barajas, 42, Juliana Menefee, 51, and Eva Perez, 52, here.
Barajas also is known as Maricela Torres.
Authorities identified Perez as the “ringleader” of the fraud. She was ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution and handed combined prison sentences in two counties totaling 13 years.
Barajas and Menefee each pleaded no contest, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Each was sentenced to three years in state prison. The sentences will be served at the county jail, prosecutors said.
Both Barajas and Menefee also were ordered to make restitution that totals a combined $590,000.
Deputy District Attorney James Belna of the Major Fraud Division said all three women told victims that they were investing in a contract with the Alta Dena Dairy to sell milk exclusively to Disneyland.
More than 30 people from throughout Los Angeles County invested between $2,000 to $100,000 with the three women and were promised extraordinary rates of return, Belna said.
The Ponzi scheme, which also reached into San Bernardino County, operated between June 2008 and August 2010. Perez was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to her role in San Bernardino, and was sentenced to an additional three years in Los Angeles County after pleading no contest.
Those sentences will be served consecutively, prosecutors said.
Investigators from the Commercial Crimes Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did the legwork on the fraud inside the county’s borders, prosecutors said.
As the Ponzi was unraveling and payments stopped, the scammers “organized informational meetings, and attempted to pacify investors by explaining the delays in payment were a result of an internal audit of the business,” investigators said last year.
It is somewhat common for Ponzi scammers to claim payments have been delayed by audits.
Barajas and Menefee were described by investigators as Ponzi pitchwomen who defrauded seven investors. All in all, more than 30 people from within Los Angeles County got scammed.