It’s All in the Family in Latest California Real Estate Scam

A husband and wife from Riverside County were arrested as part of an alleged Ponzi scheme that bilked dozens of investors out of over $2.3 million. The couple has been charged with securities fraud, conspiracy and elder abuse.

Philip Lester and Ellen Lester, surrendered to custody in Riverside County last month. Philip’s sister, Susan Laferte, was also implicated in the scam.

According to the arrest record, the couple was part of a group that allegedly engaged in a pattern of theft and fraud-related crimes for more than eight years. Investor funds were used to make interest payments to earlier investors or for projects in which the company’s owner had a financial interest.

“These defendants exploited their personal relationships with these victims and emptied their bank accounts,” Attorney General Harris said. “Schemes that target the elderly are especially heinous, which is why prosecuting fraud and elder abuse needs to remain priorities for law enforcement.”

Philip Lester, CEO of Gold Country Lenders, and Laferte, the firm’s CFO, are being charged with 66 felony counts of elder abuse, securities fraud and conspiracy. Laferte is Philip Lester’s sister. They were booked at the Riverside County Jail with bail set at $600,000 each.

Ellen Lester is being charged with two felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud and was booked at the Riverside County Jail with bail set at $50,000.

From January 2003 to June 2011, Gold Country Lenders sold securities on specific real estate development projects, promising investors annual returns of eight to 12 percent.

In fact, some of the promised deeds of trust were never recorded, while others were recorded but secondary to other loans, or were diluted by the repackaging and overselling of shares.

I wonder what they’ll talk about at Thanksgiving this year?