Jesse Alvin Cripps Sr., 57, previously of Visalia, California, was sentenced by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to nine years and six months in prison for an investment scheme involving the sale of fraudulent real estate investment trusts. As part of his sentence, Cripps must also pay $2 million in restitution to his victims and must forfeit the property and proceeds obtained from the scheme, including a $2 million personal money judgment.
Cripps was remanded into custody immediately after the sentencing hearing to begin serving his sentence.
On May 13, 2011, Cripps pleaded guilty to multiple counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering.
According to court documents, between July 2001 and June 2008, Cripps, who was working as a financial advisor, devised a scheme to defraud investors through various means. In most instances, Cripps solicited investors by offering them an opportunity to purportedly invest in a real estate investment trust (REIT). He told investors that the REIT fund was an investment group for real estate in either Nevada or California, that the REIT fund was secured by the property, that they would typically earn 10 to 12 percent interest per month, and that if the investment did not work out, the investor would still own the property and could sell it.
As a result of Cripps‘s false and fraudulent statements, investors gave him money to invest in the purported real estate investment trusts, but instead of investing, he placed it in his own personal bank account. He would then launder the proceeds through a series of transactions. Cripps used the money for his own business and personal expenses.
According to his guilty plea, Cripps admitted that as part of his scheme to defraud, he periodically sent the investors statements showing the purported progress of their investments and the interest earned to date. Cripps would also use new investors’ money to pay interest amounts owed to other investors. These periodic payments and statements lulled the investors into believing the legitimacy of their investments and brought in new investors. As a result of this investment scheme, Cripps caused a loss of approximately $1.5 million to investors.
At sentencing, Judge O’Neill addressed the victims and stated, “I can’t imagine how anybody can get to a place to do what was done to you.”
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the sentence.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Michele Thielhorn prosecuted the case.
This law enforcement action is part of the work being done by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. One component of the FFETF is the national Securities Fraud Working Group, which is tasked with combating investment fraud schemes. For more information on the task force, visit StopFraud.gov.