Mark Alan Helsing, 53, Tustin, California, a broker for “hard money lenders,” was sentenced to 15 years in state prison and three years of formal probation for stealing $6.9 million from investors in a Ponzi and real estate fraud scheme.
The defendant pleaded guilty Oct. 3, 2011, to 55 felony counts of grand theft, seven felony counts of filing false recorded documents, six felony counts of elder financial exploitation, and sentencing enhancements for white collar crime over $500,000 and excessive taking over $1 million and $1.3 million. Restitution will be determined at a later date.
Between May 2004 and June 2007, Helsing defrauded approximately 12 people in a Ponzi and real estate fraud scheme. Helsing operated as a broker for “hard money lenders” through his four Orange County based businesses including Sea View Investments, HLHS Financial Services, Inc., Foothill Realty, and Sea View Mortgage. The term “hard money lender” is a private investor who provides money to borrowers looking for funds from non-bank lenders.
He stole from his private investors, most of whom were long-time friends who trusted the defendant, by keeping the money they lent for borrowers and not funding the loans as promised. Helsing supplied investors with bogus interest payments by taking small sums from their initial investment and providing them with falsified and forged documents to prevent them from discovering that the loans had not been repaid. Helsing embezzled the money and failed to return it the investors’ initial principal.
Helsing operated a Ponzi scheme and used funds from new investors to pay off old investors. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent scheme that offers investors high, short-term returns on investments by using the money from other investors. Instead of using the money to generate actual income and legitimate profits, the money from investors is kept for the benefit of the defendant or used to repay earlier investors.
In December 2008, the Tustin Police Department began investigating the case after receiving complaints of checks bouncing from some of Helsing‘s victims. Helsing was arrested in court June 12, 2009, after pleading guilty in an unrelated case (#08CF3304) to six felony counts including grand theft and check fraud.
Deputy District Attorney George McFetridge of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.