Aldo Joseph Baccala, 71, Petaluma, California, was arrested for stealing more than $20 million from dozens of real estate investors in a Ponzi scheme.
The defendant was charged with 167 felony counts of grand theft, securities fraud and elder abuse. He has also been charged with a number of enhancements, which indicate that he engaged in a pattern of theft and fraud related crimes which resulted in a loss of over $3.2 million. Baccala‘s bail has been set at $2 million and he is being held at the Sonoma County Adult Detention Facility.
The arrest declaration alleges Baccala used his Petaluma-based company, Baccala Realty, Inc., to raise millions of dollars from more than 50 investors for ventures in California and other states, such as assisted living facilities, a car wash and other businesses.
Victims of the scheme, many of whom are elderly and who had known Baccala and his family for many years were promised annual returns of 12 percent or more to invest in a specific project which was supposed to be secured by a first or second deed of trust on the property. In fact, none of the promised deeds of trust were ever recorded, and the funds raised were not used as promised.
Baccala also allegedly used money obtained by investors to invest in the stock market and to cover margin calls and stock trading losses. From 2003 to 2008, he lost approximately $8 million in the stock market. As his debts grew, he began promising new investors annual returns of up to 27.5 percent to cover interest payments to earlier investors.
In November 2008, Baccala issued letters to investors saying that he would no longer make promised monthly payments. After receiving numerous complaints, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation into Baccala Realty, Inc. in January 2009.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced the arrest.
The Sonoma District Attorney’s office was assisted in the investigation by the Attorney General’s office, and the case will be jointly prosecuted.
“This Ponzi scheme caused dozens of investors to lose their money through false promises and sham investments,” Attorney General Harris said. “It is important to protect Californians from criminals who use deceptive tactics for personal gain.”
“Through this joint prosecution effort, we intend to seek justice for Sonoma County residents who suffered tragic losses in a fraudulent scheme,” said District Attorney Ravitch.