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Woman Pleads In Local Real Estate Fraud Case

A San Fernando Valley real estate agent who pled guilty to running a million-dollar ponzi scheme will be sentenced March 13, 2013, according to federal officials.

Celia Gallardo, 42, of North Hills, was arrested July 11 by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, after their investigation concluded she had bilked dozen of investors out of millions.

“She pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, which is a felony,” said Jeremy Matz, assistant U.S. attorney. “As is typical in federal court, sentencing will take place in a few months,” he said, explaining that there were still pre-sentencing reports to be completed.

“As part of her plea agreement, she agreed that restitution to be ordered to a few dozen victims,” Matz said. The amount suggested by U.S. Attorney’s Office is $2.2 million, but the judge has discretion to raise or lower that amount.

Matz said as far as time in prison, there hasn’t been a recommendation made yet, but there will be.

“We anticipate that there will be a term of imprisonment,” Matz said. “We’re not sure what that will be yet.”

Investors were advised to put money into Gallardo’s purported real estate investment program. Gallardo told the investors that she would purchase condominiums in other states and that these properties would yield extremely high rates of return in very short time periods — as much as a 100 percent return in only 30 days, according to the indictment.

Gallardo allegedly assured victims that their money was safe. She issued “Promissory Notes” to investors that “confirmed” their money was being used in the purported real estate transactions, according to an FBI statement.

However, as alleged in the indictment, Gallardo spent a majority of investor funds on undisclosed and unauthorized purposes, including her residence, foreign luxury travel, cash withdrawals, and to repay certain earlier investors to perpetuate the scheme. The victims, including investors in California and Arizona, lost more than $1 million.

Gallardo’s scheme allegedly ran from September 2007 until September 2008.