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Federal prosecutors say a Charlotte man has pleaded guilty to a real estate scheme that bilked investors out of $3 million

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Federal prosecutors say the co-founder of a Charlotte property investment firm has pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme that bilked at least 20 people out of more than $3 million, money that they say he used to buy expensive jewelry for himself.

The U.S. Department of Justice says 30-year-old Frank Enrique Lleras pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to securities fraud and wire fraud.

According to prosecutors, Lleras lured investors by promoting his Optimum Property Investments as a company that made money by purchasing distressed and/or foreclosed properties. He would resell and/or lease the property, and he also induced medical professionals in the Dominican Republic to invest.

Lleras faces fines totaling more than $5 million and up to 40 years in prison. A sentencing date hasn't been set.

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