Ronald Russell was sentenced to 13 years and 4 months in state prison for running a rent-to-own real estate Ponzi scheme. Russell was also ordered to surrender his real estate license issued by the California Bureau of Real Estate.
On March 24, 2014, a jury convicted Russell of 49 felony counts of grand theft and two misdemeanor counts of petty theft. The jury also found true that the thefts resulted in the loss of more than $100,000.
Russell was a licensed real estate agent who solicited victims to participate in his “Rent-to-Own” real estate Ponzi scheme. From 2009 through 2010, financially distressed victims paid Russell approximately $2,900 to join this “Rent-to-Own” program. In return, Russell promised to purchase a home for the victims with investor money, rent the home to the victims, and
eventually sell the home to the victims at his purchase price. Russell stated he would provide a full refund to the victims if they were not satisfied with the transaction.
The victims’ money was used to fund Russell’s personal expenses and pay refunds to those participants who demanded refunds earlier in time. No one obtained a house through the
“Rent-to-Own” program and most participants did not get the promised refund. The total loss to the 51 victims was $139,200.
District Attorney Jan Scully announced the sentence.