California says $5 million Ponzi scam bilked older Filipinos

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s attorney general on Friday charged 15 people with conspiring to defraud mostly elderly victims of Filipino descent out of a combined $5 million.

They’re accused of bilking at least 30 victims mostly in the Sacramento and Stockton areas through what Attorney General Rob Bonta alleged was an international Ponzi scheme framed around the construction of the Pagudpud Sands Resort.

Bonta said the resort in the Philippines hasn’t opened or produced any income. His office could not immediately say if any of those charged have defense attorneys.

Prosecutors allege that the defendants have lied to potential investors at group sales presentations since late 2015 to encourage their investments.

One 83-year-old invested $230,000, the charges say, while others invested tens of thousands of dollars. An 84-year-old woman put in $500,000.

The perpetrators falsely said a major, well-known hotel company had agreed to manage the resort, prosecutors said. Victims were paid “interest” on their investments that actually came from other victims’ investments and not the resort itself.

Instead of funding the resort, prosecutors say most of the money went to paying two of the defendants at least $10,000 a month. Thousands of dollars also went to commissions for those who brought in additional investors or for other unrelated marketing schemes, the charges say.

The 98 separate charges filed in Sacramento County Superior Court include grand theft, financial elder abuse, selling unqualified securities, securities fraud and communications containing untrue statements and omissions of material facts.