Veronica Sanchez Gallegos, 28, Ventura, California, a licensed real estate agent, pled guilty on August 6, 2009, to one felony count of theft from an elder, five felony counts of grand theft, and admitted a special allegation of taking more than $500,000.
In an investigation conducted by the District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, it was determined that Gallegos conducted a fraudulent investment scheme where six victims entrusted her with a total $1,289,000. Victims invested money with Gallegos after relying on false assurances made by Gallegos that their investments were being pooled into short term construction, real estate, and similar “secured” loans by a corporation named Equity One and were protected by an escrow fund in the event of default. Gallegos made other false representations including that she was an “Accredited Investor” as defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission, earned income in excess of $200,000 per year, had a net worth in excess of one million dollars and that she personally guaranteed every investment.
One 65 year-old victim invested the bulk of his life savings for a total of $284,000 and suffered a net loss of $244,000. Other investors invested amounts ranging from $40,000 to $622,000. Investors typically responded to e-mail solicitations from Gallegos where they were promised returns of principal plus monthly payments and thousands of additional dollars. For example, one investor gave $68,000 to Gallegos in exchange for a “loan agreement” promising the payment of $1,041 per month for 24 months, followed by a payment of $80,500, with ten percent interest charged on any amounts not paid in full. While some investors did receive a small proportion of their funds back, the net losses suffered by all investors are estimated at $1,238,706.
Gallegos operated under business names Home Center Realty and Loans and Home Center Loans of Ventura. The investigation revealed that such businesses handled very few legitimate real estate transactions. To date, no funds have been recovered and it appears that the proceeds were spent by Gallegos. In one instance, the day after receiving $193,000 from one investor, Gallegos used $25,000 to purchase a truck from a local auto dealer. Gallegos admitted the wrongful conduct, expressed remorse for the victims and indicated that she will accept responsibility for her actions.
Gallegos faces a maximum prison term of 12 years, 4 months. Her sentencing hearing is set for October 7, 2009 before Superior Court Judge Edward Brodie. Gallegos remains out of custody on $30,000 bail pending the sentencing hearing.
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced the guilty plea.